My Emancipation From American Christianity

chain-breaking-free
I used to think that it was just me, that it was my problem, my deficiency, my moral defect.

It had to be.

All those times when I felt like an outsider in this American Jesus thing; the ever-more frequent moments when my throat constricted and my heart raced and my stomach turned.

Maybe it came in the middle of a crowded worship service or during a small group conversation. Maybe while watching the news or when scanning a blog post, or while resting in a silent, solitary moment of prayer. Maybe it was all of these times and more, when something rose up from the deepest places within me and shouted, “I can’t do this anymore! I can’t be part of this!”

These moments once overwhelmed me with panic and filled me with guilt, but lately I am stepping mercifully clear of such things.

What I’ve come to realize is that it certainly is me, but not in the way I used to believe.

I am not losing my mind.
I’m not losing my faith.
I’m not failing or falling or backsliding.
I have simply outgrown much of American Christianity.

I’ve outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
I’ve outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
I’ve outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
I’ve outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.
I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
I’ve outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in anyway.

Most of all though, I’ve outgrown something that simply no longer feels like love, something I no longer see much of Jesus in.

If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place where the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.

It should be the place where diversity is fiercely pursued and equality loudly championed; where all of humanity finds a permanent home and where justice runs the show.

That is not what this thing is. This is FoxNews and red cup protests and persecution complexes. It’s opulent, big box megachurches and coddled, untouchable celebrity pastors. It’s pop culture boycotts and manufactured outrage. It’s just wars and justified shootings. It’s all manner of bullying and intolerance in the name of Jesus.

Feeling estrangement from these things is a good thing.

For the past two decades I’ve lived within the tension of trying to be in the thing and not be altered by the thing, but that tension has become too great. Ultimately it’s a spiritual compatibility issue.

It’s getting harder and harder to love all people and still fit into what has become American Christianity, so rather than becoming less loving and staying—I’m leaving.

I’m breaking free from religion for the sake of my soul.

I’m not sure practically what that looks like, but I can feel myself consciously and forcefully pulling away; creating distance between me and a system that can no longer accommodate the scale of my God and the scope of my aspirations.

Jesus said that the Spirit moves where it pleases, and with it go those in its glorious grip. In my heart and in the hearts of so many like me, that Spirit is boldly declaring its emancipation from the small, heavily guarded space that wants to contain it, and taking us out into the wide, breathtaking expanses of unfettered faith.

Every day people tell me that this great releasing is happening within them too; that they are finding freedom beyond the building and the box, and rediscovering a God right sized.

I am a Christian and an American, but I refuse to settle for this American Christianity any longer or be defined by it.

I know that there is something much greater beyond it worth heading toward; something that looks more like God and feels more like love.

Maybe you see it in the distance too. Maybe we can go there together.

Fear is in the rear view, freedom in the windshield.

 

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1,018 thoughts on “My Emancipation From American Christianity

  1. So John is there one thing you have not out grown? possibly Progressive attacks, indoctrination and manipulation. Maybe it is you, maybe you are part of the new American Christianity created by Progressives for their own purpose.

      • I don’t think it’s about blame. It’s about taking responsibility for your own life. Maybe he realizes he’s not going to change “the system” (American Christianity, or any other), so he’s going to change his relationship to it and simply end it.

        • Certainly feel the same the way as John but worry that I am like the person praying thanking God that he is not like other people. We need to remain humble and compassionate in our communications with the churches we leave…..if they let us communicate with them at all.

          • If it helps keep it in perspective, I am in New Zealand, & from this distance, most people here view your form of religion as mainly a form of highly distorted cultural imperialism [which the article sums up beautifully, but most people immersed in a cultures force field are blind to].
            Formal religion, of any faith, is substantially shaped by culture & politics. If you watch the TV series ‘The Tudors’ you’ll see how arbitrary is the history that shaped todays form of American Christianity. I’m not a disbeliever. I think the essence of Jesus teachings in the New Testament are vital guidelines for living – but every other religion, including Islam, has the same kernels of truth at heart, buried under layers of cultural encrustation….

            • “Highly distorted cultural imperialism”. I agree with you 100%. That’s why American Christianity is in decline, which I see as a very just and well deserved consequence of being the obedient servant of the American Empire.

            • Thank you so much for this perspective! I have to think that it looks crazy from the outside looking in. I have friends in other countries within the Americas and get their perspectives on our country, too. It’s so incredibly interesting and insightful.

              I’m heartbroken and frustrated, much like Mr. Pavlovitz, that my country is doing its very best to commercialize, radicalize (in the wrong direction), and politicize Jesus Christ. It’s abhorrent to me. I refuse to be a part of it and always have. It has help solidify my status as the ever-failing black sheep in a conservative family. However, I know how they make others feel because of how they’ve always made me feel. And that’s not at all the way Jesus is. He makes me feel valued, accepted, and loved. I had always believed in my heart – even not truly “growing up” in the church – that Jesus wanted us to be humble listeners. I try to do that. And I get ostracized for it. But, I’m OK with it because I know I’m doing the right thing, no matter how painful it can be.

            • A fellow Kiwi! Nicely said Vanessa. It seems to me Christians like John if fact come from a place of Christian orthodoxy and are desperately trying to rescue the authentic Gospel from the clutches of the vile counterfeit much of American evangelical “Christianity” has become. The emergence of Trump has exposed this counterfeit for what it is. If people are rejecting it they are doing so because they love the Gospel.

            • Very well sums up how a lot of us feel here too. I live in Missouri, the heart of the country. I’m sitting on my back porch in the country, I’m trying to hear nature, but finding it difficult with all the gun fire. Probably target 🎯 practices. Not all of us are so war some. For all the devotions to peace we can’t seem to even achieve tranquility in our back yards.

        • He is a victim of his hubris. I have many issues with what John Pavlovitz terms “American Christianity.” I’d rather use the term “Rightwing America Religiosity.” Yet, it seams the only thing he has grown into is “American Leftwing Religiosity.” As Thomas Oden did, he (and you) should check out the faith in Jesus the Christ once and for all delivered through the Holy Spirit to the Church Apostolic and Universal.

          • Church Apostolic and Universal? The same Apostolic Church also known as the Pentecostal Church? What does the Bible tell us about denominations? I don’t believe John mentioned anywhere that he didn’t have faith in Christ or the Holy Spirit. Victim of his own hubris? Everything he has shared from his experience is pretty humbling, so where is this pride that he has fallen victim to?

      • Right. As if none of us really are allowed free will . The bible may say God gave us free will but free will is only allowable if you fit into that certain religious system. How can people no feel suffocated by it?

        • That was suppose to say how can people not feel suffocated by it. Here’s a point . How does continuing to sow hate and make it worse for the next generation seem like a great I dea to pass onto our kids. Our kids should know love , regardless of religion or race or sexual orientation. Our kids should be shown how to love others as well as themselves. We as humans have the ability to come together but instead people such yourself Brad continue to control and season the next generation with sadness, war, self depreciation, and hatred for anything not like you or the box in which you have surrendered yourself into . Why ??????
          Because you think a book tells you to? Did you read Steve Kings IT “and become a clown killer?
          Ok I’m sorry I’ll apologize to those who believe the bible. That was rude but free will doesn’t mean giving up spiritual beliefs. Most of the “quote progressive” people I know believe in something outside of themselves and they are happy loving people. Who exdode love onto other. Who teach their children how to love ,not how to cause more suffering in the world .
          Believe whatever you want but for myself and my son I choose love. Not because I’ll go to hell if I don’t do good things but because being good is the right thing to do.

          • I like your answer. I believe in God but I don’t support Christianity and I don’t do good because I’m afraid of hell. I do it because we should, it’s right, it’s necessary and it’s loving. Thanks for your reply.

              • Belief in God is not the sole purview of the Christian. In fact, it’s a major premise of every single religion on the planet (and a fair few that don’t rise all the way to “religion,” such as transcendentalism). It’s perfectly normal to believe in God but not be a Christian.

                Similarly, belief in doing good things is also not the sole purview of Christianity, and a lot of the other worldviews (take atheism, for example) manage to encourage good deeds without the need for a threat of eternal punishment if you don’t.

                Again: believing in God and doing good works are things that only Christians do, and that attitude is one of the very things that Mr. Pavlovitz is talking about.

                • First of all, I believe being a Christian is having a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a religion. If you believe in God, the Bible was God inspired through man. I’m not sure how can you not believe in his son, Jesus. They are one in the same, along with the Holy Spirit, that makes the Trinity. You can’t have one with the others. God is love and we are called to love one another. That does not mean to open ourselves up to harm. We can love the sinner & hate the sin!!! And we are ALL sinners. The “doing good” is what I do because I love the Father and he calls me to love one another, and I want to please him, because I am a child of God. Like a child want to please his parents. It saddens me that its a “I want what I want when I want it, and nobody is going to tell me different” world. And look where we are. It is simple for me, I chose, yes there is my free will to give my life to Jesus, and follow the Fathers word. I don’t need to get caught up in the arguing, judging, hating or digging into the word and try to figure & know exactly why the Bible says things are forbidden, and here they are right in front of us. We are not meant to know it all. He shows each of us what we need to know at the right time. I am called to love, share Jesus & the word. I love the sinner & hate the sin. My prayer is I will receive the same. I think we can get caught up in the Philosophical part of Religion and miss the whole mark.
                  Praying that each and everyone of you have a blessed day& evening .

              • Childhood Cancer as does all evil and horrible things, comes because others that have come before us have sinned. God created a perfect world, but man ruined it when he chose to listen to Satan.

                • What a standard christian thing to say. That’s a load of bullhucky. Cancer does not come from someone else’s sin.
                  It’s thinking like that made me leave the church and it’s idiots in the dust.

                  • “A load of bullhucky?” What Dan wrote is true. God created a perfect world. Man, through the deceit of Satan corrupted it. That is why there is disease, etc. in our world. The Bible explains this very clearly. Either you believe that document or you reject it. Admit it, one way or the other.

                    • I reject the Bible as an infallible document. It is a collection of tales as the many other religious documents are. They are mostly mortality tales, and may have some basis in events not fully understood by the people of the time (eclipses, motions of stars, etc) so I never take them seriously. I would sooner believe in the Zeus, Odin, or one of the other pantheon of gods that are not active today. Why are they not active? Because people stopped believing in them. Christianity is just one of many replacements. Religions are all about control and comfort. If you do as you are told, you go to heaven. Maybe. The Christian faith does not have an exclusive on creation myths either. They borrowed much of the story from previous religions stories. Though not all of them make woman the villain. I just see all religious texts as old stories, nothing more, certainly not something I would allow to rule my life, thanks.

                • Oh please.A God that punishes innocent people for other’s so called damnations? Well, am truly glad I converted from Southern Baptist to nihilistic aetheism. For me, as a card carrying non believer, I really have no ax to grind.If it takes a god to make you happy and perhaps give your life a moral compass , then cool.Whatever floats your boat or ark! Me personally, I have always thought about other people’s needs before mine and I don’t go out of my way to find fault with other people’s personal beliefs either. Even when your beliefs are totally wrong !!!!!! LoL
                  As usual, great writing and thinking John.Don’t let any criticisms that come your way from others disrupt your path because it is stuff that does matter and it does need to be articulated in this world! Peace

      • Priests have molested thousands of children and the Church has swept it under the rug. More than a few fundamentalist preachers have bilked millions out of people and promoted hate and bigotry. Churches are certainly not the “victim” here.

        • Could it be because these miscreants think that they are more important than others? And a title does not insure that the holder is worthy of it, or indicate what kind of person one is.

        • ” Priest have molested…”, “The CHURCH has swept it under the rug ” don’t you mean Catholicism and the Pope, and Catholic church ? Not ” The church”, because “the church” are the christian people, not a religion nor a building ! You are putting all Christians in one lump. You are totally wrong. You are Promoting, bigotry, hatred, narrow mindedness, and your ignorance since you don’t even know what the term , “the Church ” means. I pity you and people who are like mindedness, because you have not one idea of what a Christian is you are so judgmental and narrow minded, you have no idea you are “preaching” your own destruction.

          • I have been reading through the posts and feel you hit the nail on the head. So many who are not Christians do not knowwhat it means. We need to pray for all of them. Love is a wonderful thing and yes God is a loving God but Jesus is the way to heaven.

      • Well that’s cool I guess. Mr. Pavlovitz now willingly loves the same people from whom he emancipated. He ‘has’ to love the bigots too because otherwise he’s not any freer than he was before. Christianity is not about some fancy progressive words and catering to society’s views. It’s about love, which means loving all, but also having principles, God’s principles to live one’s life by. Love means acknowledging there are things in this world that go against God’s morals and speaking the truth of those sins in love. Not judging for we all sin, but it means speaking the truth. Simply saying that everything is ok and letting people do what they want doesn’t mean love. It’s quite opposite of love.

        • The issue is…when does it get legalistic and ridiculous? I’m call myself a Christian and enjoy a certain holiday and certain book series that most super conservatives would probably call me “Devils child” for. Yeah. I enjoy Halloween. I read Harry Potter. Oh and I’m in show business. An occupation that the same realm I speak of would crucify me for. I’ve been judged and forced out of a place to live because of some of these things. This super conservative realm is of the belief that if it’s not written down for them to see, then it MUST be unbiblical and therefore evil.
          There are certain things that if we have the conviction that it doesn’t bother us, than it’s not a problem. As a performing artist, I’m not, nor ever have been, bothered by Halloween, reading Harry Potter, or any of those things that the super religious right would be overly legalistic about and scream “that’s Unchristian/Ungodly!”
          These groups can’t seem to get that God has given each of us our own specific purpose with the path to follow it on and the convictions to match it. I’m a performer. A storyteller. If I were bothered by every single supposedly unbiblical thing id ever come across in this occupation, I wouldn’t get very far nor be able to follow that purpose.
          “Stay away from what causes you to sin.” Enjoying Halloween, reading certain books, watching certain movies, having an occupation in show business hasn’t caused me to sin. And I’m tired of the super religious right realm telling me that merely doing these things is a sin in itself. If THEY are bothered by it and it would cause them to sin, fine, but quit judging those who aren’t bothered by these things.

          • And Jesus? He would (and is) celebrating your talents, sharing it on His Facebook wall and telling everyone how perfect and glorious you are. Why? Because CHRISTIANITY means = Christ-like. Why has everyone lost this most basic definition? Me? I want to SEE YOUR Performances! Celebrate them with you! Wish I was as talented as you! Because that’s what unconditionally loving Christians stand for and believe, with every molecule of their being.

        • Well said – Christ drove the money changers out of the temple. His church needs purification but that doesn’t mean compromise with a progressive agenda

          • Hown does a progressive agenda of providing food, shelter, education and health care require compromise from Christians? Why would it be wrong for Christians to support such things?

          • What part of a “progressive” agenda do you not like? I keep hearing such negativity about “progressives”. But no one seems to have an answer.

          • I think God wants us to pray about the big picture – other worlds, other cultures, bigger issues than our own small circles. The “old time religion” you seem to espouse doesn’t meet the needs of those of us who now have access to every imaginable thing on the internet. It creates anxiety on a mass scale so we need to address how to be Christians in the modern world we live in, I think. One of the things you said I really loved is this ‘keeper’: We are not meant to know it all. Thank you.

      • Could it be that he is trying to find salvation inside of the church building ? It can not be found in a building, Is that what the great disappointment is all about, Church is not a museum for saints, But a hospital for sinners. Or maybe he is depending on man for his salvation.? It seems he is distancing himself from people who call themselves Christian.
        I know what the frustration must be like. the “church” today is more of an entertainment center than a place to worship G_D…….. Only one place is salvation found, at the Cross of Jesus Christ…. STOP…. depending on people to make your salvation complete.

    • Brad, your post indicates that you don’t actually know anything about the progressive faith with which you take such strong and slightly bitter issue.

      Progressive faith is all about the opposites of your claim. It is about seeking and sharing peace, not attacks. It is about freedom from indoctrination and manipulation in order to clear the way for the Spirit to reside in our hearts and souls. Mostly, it is about living according to the role model Jesus revealed and invited us to follow. It is about letting the Spirit guide us as we face the enormity of cruelty, hatred, fear and devastation we are reminded of each day. The Spirit guides, encourages and awakens us to ways we can contribute to making a better world for everyone. It helps answer the important question, ” What would Jesus do?” in my situation. Amid all the chaos and pain surrounding us, it also brings the peace which passes all understanding to our souls.

      I pray (really) that the burden of the persecution complex you expressed in your comment be replaced with that very peace.

      Love,

      Mary

      • I have left the box myself, but clearly for different reasons than “progressive liberalism” that John and many of his readers have. Progressive “c”hristianity denies the Cross that bought Salvation. It denies God’s Holiness. It denies Scripture & it denies Christian History. It denies the diety of Christ Jesus and makes Him into merely a “role model” as opposed to what Scripture says He is: The Lord GOD Almighty Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and Everything in it. He is the Beginning & the End.

        I actually agree with John that the Church has left it’s first love and so often doesn’t display love. Embracing Islam, Atheism, and Hedonism is not the answer though. We are to FIRST love one another IN THE CHURCH, and then when the world sees that we actually “LOVE ONE ANOTHER” it will believe our message. Watering down the message of THE CROSS is NOT the answer. In fact doing so means you aren’t a Christian, but just playing one.

        • I am a progression Christian and I don’t know what you are talking about. I sounds like you are making the same mistake about progressive Christians that most people make about Christians in general- that we only believe one thing or can be defined in just a few words.
          It is called The Good News. All this anger seems so anti that.

        • I didn’t see him say embrace the religion. I saw him say embrace the people. Which is what Christ did. He met people where they were and showed them a better way. He didn’t bash them over the head with words of condemnation, but encouraged them to seek the truth and accept His as Savior.

        • So we are instructed by Jesus to only love one another if that other is in the Church? Seriously? Was Mary Magdalene in the Church? I think not! And Jesus loved her anyway. Your statement implies that anybody you deem “Not in the Church” is not worthy of a Christian’s love. That person is exactly who Jesus would search out.

        • Huh? Will you please provide examples to back up your statements about Progressive Christianity? Aren’t Christians followers of Christ’s TEACHINGS? Or do you consider yourself a Christian because you read the Bible and you worship a Cross? I’m just confused by the statements you are making because you start your argument with an unsupported statement about “progressive” Christianity, then you claim to be a Christian yet you think that embracing others who are different is not what Christians do. Please clarify. Thanks.

          • He quoted scripture, Jesus’ teachings actually, I think found in each of the 4 gospels. Saying to the apostles that the people around them who did not yet believe would believe by seeing the love they had for one another.

            And no, being a Christian is NOT about following the teachings of Christ. Becasue those teachings in themselves do not bring salvation. Actual placing of your hope in the death and resurrection of Christ as payment for your individual sins against God, that is Christianity. Reading the word of God is good and right. Following the commands of Christ and his life is good and right. Neither lead to salvation.

            • Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus said in John 14, that if you abide/continue in my Word, you are my disciples, first called Christians in Antioch. By faith you are saved through grace. Faith comes by hearing the Word preached. We are told to not only be hearers but doers of the Word, the doing is clarified in the Epistles as doing after the Word preached from the beginning, following after these life giving Spirit filled Words (Hebrews 4). The Spirit leads into all Truth. John 17 thy Word is Truth. If you are not looking into the Word – the perfect law of liberty and using it’s Words as reproof, doctrine, instruction in righteousness as II Timothy 3:16, you cannot be continuing therein and have witness of belonging to God. So essentially yes the Word of God saves you because the Word is Jesus and the breath of the Holy Spirit for your life. Where the Holy Spirit witnesses you belong to God.

        • Christians are commanded by Jesus to love everybody. Love everybody the same way you love yourself. This especially includes the poor, the hungry, the foreigner, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, the marginalized, the mentally ill. People who find themselves outside the circle of human kindness. Love everybody. Even your enemy. No exceptions. It’s called The Great Commandment. It’s in all three synoptic gospels. And between Matthew 25 and Luke 10, it is clear this is the core of Jesus’ teaching.

          Muslims? Jesus says to love them. Atheists? Jesus says to love them. Hedonists? Jesus says to love them. And if you consider these people your enemies, or they consider you theirs, what does Jesus say to do? That’s right. Love them.

        • Embracing Islam and atheists and herons is exactly what Christ would do along with all the other sinners of the world. He would tear down the walls that keep your faith locked in a box. Christ teachings were in the open, outside of walls for everyone who was willing to listen no matter who or what they were. The teachings of Christ were very progressive, persecuted by his own Synagogues and their leaders (teachers). His teachings all lead to the same thing. LOVE Everyone! There are no exceptions. You can’t say you love someone with a “but” or “except”. Christ would not deny anyone, no muslim, no heathen, not anyone, but you would deny anyone who are not already claiming to be Christian or found Christ? Embrace everyone!

      • “I have left the box myself, but clearly for different reasons than “progressive liberalism” that John and many of his readers have. Progressive “c”hristianity denies the Cross that bought Salvation. It denies God’s Holiness. It denies Scripture & it denies Christian History……(etc)”

        What is it you perceive about progressive Christianity that makes you believe it is what you described it as?

      • Galatianman53161: we are not asked to embrace Islam, Atheism or Hedonism. Rather we are asked to embrace Islamists, Atheists and Hedonists. Christ called us to love all unconditionally. While I believe part of that love means respecting other beliefs even if you don’t agree, it doesn’t mean we are embracing those beliefs. Embrace the people, not their doctrine.

        If all Christians do is love other Christians, we are reduced to being a club. Christ called us to do better than that. Even from the Cross he called for forgiveness for his tormentors. The Cross is strengthened by reaching out, and weakened when we close doors.

        • This is what I believe. As l read the term ‘Amerucan Christians’ I am so saddened. We are ALL children in God’s family when we accept Jesus as our personal Savior and do our best to follow His plan for our lives. “For God so loved THE WORLD….,”- all of us! It must pain him to see fracturing and critisicm and hatred expressed among His children! We don’t have to agree on how we live out our Christian Faith, but we must respect the freedom God gives us to choose how we express it. The most important commandment Gid gives us is to love him with all of our heart soul mind and strength, and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves- that includes fellow Christians as well as non-believers. Our country is so sadly fractured politically- please don’t let it become fractured within our family if God!

          • Evangelical Christianity has become a warped thing, mistaking Jesus’ words about peace for orders to buy a lot of guns and take them everywhere you go. Our Lord was undoubtedly a dark-skinned Middle Eastern man, short and possibly heavy (his detractors called him a drunk and a glutton). He taught peace and love — for God and for our neighbors (who he said is everybody, even those people we revile). Jesus said that what we do to the least of our fellow humans, we do t o him. American Evangelicals overwhelmingly support a policy of torture by our military in times of war. Many of us haven’t left evangelism. Evangelism, based in Calvin’s shaming sermons and visions of hell for most humans (according to my pastor as a child, that included Catholics, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Jehovas’ Witnesses) has become even less approachable over the past 30 years. God doesn’t love one nation more than others. God doesn’t love guns (that’s us). God doesn’t care about our Constitution (that’s us). Jesus never wrapped himself in any flag (that’s evangelism in 2016). We didn’t leave the traditional Christian mainstream, it deserted us. And we have moved on, following Jesus, loving God, and letting her out of that tiny box that evangelism has kept her in for so long.

        • True, Jesus loved sinners. But, don’t forget the most important part– He always left them with an admonition of “Go, and sin no more”. You cannot leave out that part. And Paul challenges us to go into all the world and preach the good news of Jesus. You can’t hide your light under a bushel. You are salt and light.

          • We need to tell the church to go and sin no more. Corinthians 5 says that we should not judge the world or we’d have to leave the world but we should judge sin in the church and spreading conspiracy theories and propaganda and starting wars on with everything we disagree with and preaching hate against people that the church disagrees with instead of loving them while praying for them – these things the church needs to repent of so that those who can’t live with that can come back.

          • Yet no matter how hard mankind tries not to sin, every one of us still sins. As long a second we live in these mortal bodies we will continue to sin.

          • I am also an atheist. And reading the commentary following this blog just reaffirms it for me. If you’ve followed John’s blog posts you know he didn’t wake up one morning, flip a coin and say, “screw this, I’m jumping ship.” This has been a process where his internal compass (you might call it spirit) has led him to a place that American Christianity and especially evangelicalism is not even lacking an embrace for, they reject it outright.
            I’m amazed at the inability of christians to engage in discussion.
            I do not have answers for everything that religion claims to, but I would rather have questions I can not answer than answers I can not question. And that is American Christianity today. A required blind obedience that the mere question of results in threads like this by other christians. It makes no sense.
            And it is not love.

            • Yes, many Christians are not very knowledgeable to say it nicely. But that doesn’t mean the Church does not have intelligent and Biblical answers. You have to talk to the right people. There will always be bad representatives in every walk of life.

      • “Progressive faith….is about living according to the role model Jesus revealed”

        The church has often been criticized for doing exactly that when it preaches against sin, which is a major theme of Christ’s ministry. The role model Christ revealed was one in which he commanded his disciples to love him and to show that love by obedience to what he said. You cannot love Christ and embrace sin. The two are mutually exclusive, by Christ’s own words in John 14Matt 4:17. Nearly every progressive Christian I know is put off by such preaching, that identifies sins and lovingly confronts it. From the perspective of the person being confronted, confronting sin is not enjoyable, and can be viewed as hateful, but it is a Biblical command to do so. So a person living according to the role model Jesus revealed will preach against sin, and encourage repentance so that they can experience the love of God. The Spirit guides us into truth, as defined by Scripture, not that feel good emotional stuff. Killing sin is painful, gut wrenching, and requires extreme choices and we need the Holy Spirit to convict us of the truth necessary to set us free from it. (John 16:13)

        Daniel

        • Daniel, The role set forth in the New Testament by the man Jesus is over 2000 years old. It was not recorded real time, it is the account of 4 different people writing at 4 different times, and 500 years later some priest decided which account to include. Sorry, but I do not find a role model there. Nothing about a tribal society that didn’t allow equal rights to women is germane to 2016. It’s allegorical at best, like Star Wars, only in Star Wars, the let women be leaders and own property.

        • But American Christendom has strayed from preaching against the sins Jesus most often preached against. For example, Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality, but 11 of His 39 parables were about money and greed. One out of seven verses in the Gospel of Luke alone deals with money, yet American Christendom has rallied around homosexuality as the defining, almost unforgivable sin, while mega churches make their “pastors” millionaire, private jet owning, mansion living television celebrities. The other defining issue of American Christendom is abortion, completely manufactured by the power hungry “Moral Majority” leaders in the late 70s, early 80s. Yet these supposedly “pro-life” people support capital punishment, unregulated gun ownership, wars of aggression, and crippling cuts to programs that provide food, shelter and health care to children. It is no wonder that people like the author are separating themselves from what passes for Christianity in America.

          • Thanks, Debra. I left American Christianity 35 years ago. It wasn’t called anything like that then. Your words are so true. I have found the peace and love that Christians profess in study , prayer, meditation. I listen to speakers who promote love, compassion, empathy, you know the things Jesus taught..

          • The reason why Jesus God’s son had to come to this earth was to pay the penalty that we as individuals owe God–the debt of our wrong-doing. You too must answer to Him. I am humbled that He who sees all these awful choices mankind makes still offers His love to us. There were “religious” people who desired nothing of God’s way during the time of Jesus too. I am sure that God sees the people of our time–those who are genuine and those who are not. He lived here perfectly and calls on us to be holy as he is holy. This being impossible he also gives us I John 1:9. Many of the opinions that you expressed might be challenged if you read God’s Word and asked Him for enlightenment. For He is the truth-giver and provides wisdom for all that request.
            I live in California where the entitlement mentality brings about behavior that is treacherous and angry. These things I have witnessed in common places like Walmart. Truly following God’s Word will never make us perfect but it will certainly make us better. This life is not all there is for it is truly cursed by sinfulness. However I have a better hope—a city not made with hands eternal in the heavens(Hebrews). I hope you find peace. M

            • So I noticed that you put “religious” in quotation marks to refer to non-Christians. This of course indicates that you do not consider other religions to be actual religions. You may not consider them to be valid or true religions, but to say that they aren’t religions at all is….well, it’s not how words work.

              • I apologize for my mishandling of words. What I mean by religious is that there were those who professed to believe in God’s ways but did not follow them and made everyone around them feel inferior and less of a person by their superiority. There are certainly those kinds of people in Christianity today. Jesus warned us about them. He also warned about those who would use His name for financial gain. Focusing on who Jesus is and following His ways and His Word humbles those who truly seek Him. It is always the battle within that causes us to stray to selfishness and moral impurity. God gave us a choice, to choose His way or ours. Because He is infinitely wiser and knows all, His way seems best. Your choices determine your course and attitude-hope you choose Jesus. M

            • And did the blind, the lame, the sick go hungry? I suppose children, too, must work to earn their bread? Another candidate for most-misunderstood verse…

        • The only sin Christians are called to confront is our own. Our calling is to love people and to share the good news about Jesus with them. The Holy Spirit can confront their sins when needed. That’s not our job.

        • But so often Christians define sin as anything different from what they want to do. No wonder there is so much cynicism. Jesus said, Love others as God loves you. I would like to know what you consider to be “Sin.”

          • God never said love the sin. He said love the person. The problem is no one wants to separate the person from the sin. Accountability is the problem. Sin is not an issue in the United States anymore. It is being debated in courts for legality. Do we not see why America and our way of life is declining? Do we see why things are happening? If you don’t want to believe, that’s on you. I won’t attempt to change your mind. But don’t tell me that organized religion is the problem.

      • As God has never created two things exactly alike, so too I believe no one believes like anyone else. My faith/religion isn’t like yours, nor should it be. You sound a bit like my Mother. That is a very, very good thing.

      • THATS was total hogwash Mary, sorry, not buying into it. Today’s version of Christianity has been hijacked by extremists who are determined to ensure we are in End Times… Christ wouldn’t recognize any of this sick crap going on “in His name.” What this guy is saying resonates with millions.

      • Wow. That in no way sounds judgmental. Why does his position put you in a defensive one? His choice is his choice. His experience does not need to define your experience.

      • Very lovely article. I’m not religious, myself, but I do believe in certain internal and external forces. Thanks for this piece, I shared it with a friend who really needed to hear it.

      • Daniel, that’s not true. We don’t know what was in the hearts of the sinners that Jesus ate with. Look at the adulterous woman. We don’t know if she repented. Jesus saved her from stoning THEN told her ‘sin no more’ not the other way around.

      • The important question is…”What would Jesus do?” Well “Mary”…that’s easy! “NOTHING!” This character Jesus has been watching people do exactly the opposite of everything Jesus is supposed to stand for…from the beginning. What has Jesus done about it? Absolutely NOTHING! Same goes for all those other “supreme” characters floating around on those clouds up there somewhere. I figure there’s probably a couple scenarios. Either Jesus and the others up there are “Supreme SADISTS”…OR…maybe there is no such thing as Jesus or any other form of Religious Leaders…up there…or anywhere else?!

      • Thank you Mary for your response – you articulated precisely what I was feeling upon reading Brad’s post. As a recovering Catholic standing in my awesomeness, ridding myself of hypocrisy and divisive superstitious teachings is so amazingly freeing. Being able to have faith in something greater than myself and still being able to declare I AM that I AM as I trust that the Universe is always working for my good and the good of ALL mankind.

      • I believe that Brad said it as succinctly as possible in his essay. Nothing more needs to be said. His soul and his spirit are both healthy and free. You do not even attempt to broach the subjects that he brought up, only to denounce his decision to free himself from what he sees and feels is a bastardization of his faith. If, in fact, the “progressive” Christian community was all about peace and love as you state, then Brad would still be a part of it and rejoicing in it. He sees truth, the truth that is found in the words and actions of the American Christian church in this country. He comes across as a person desiring peace and love and if there was an abundance of those in the American Christian church he would not have the need to write his essay about those feelings. You are ignoring the injustice done in Jesus’ name, perhaps you do not see it because your head is stuck in the sand. What would Jesus do? Probably weep.

      • Mary,
        You talk about following the Holy Spirit but the Spirit of God will not take you where the scriptures will not teach you. We cannot abandon God’s word because the Holy Sprit and Scripture testify to one another and give us proper direction. One without the other is so flawed and dangerous. Both ways. Scripture in the hands of a person unregenerate and without the Holy Spirit abiding in them is equally damaging.

        Tara

        • If there is no Bible then what is your standard of evaluation… surely you don’t think that everyone’s opinion is of equal value. If so, throw away your ruler, your speedometer, your bathroom scale, don’t ever require any certain amount of change when you give someone more than the cost of an item, in fact, insist that the new car you want to buy is just the right price for the penny you want to pay. We always have had standards for evaluating the truth. OBJECTIVE Standards… that were the same for everyone. If you don’t have a Bible, then how do you know there is a Christ… and if only by revelation, then how do you know that your revelation is a Christian revelation? It seems that moral relativism has crept into our thinking and we by determining within our selves what is right or wrong, have become a god unto ourselves.

          • Not exactly, however I follow your logic. So what would you say to those who believed in Jesus by word of mouth and what do you say to Romans 2:14,15 God doesn’t need the Bible to show us what is right and wrong it is written on our conscience. Take a deep breath Gary.

      • Dear Mary ,It’s not about persecution it’s about love yet one does not have to bend nor tolerate progressive living. I have yet to see a Christian kill or threaten anyone who chooses not to follow Christ .I have yet to see anyone try to indoctrinate another without free will. You can’t ”feel good your way out of the laws nor the Spirit of Christ! There is a constant cry to ban or blame Christians yet not a word about the laws of ISIS. There is your real hate…Peace.

        • Oh, Russ, please tell me you are joking. It happens all over the world. It happens in the Central African Republic, in India, in Lebanon, in Uganda, in Nigeria, in Norway.
          It’s happened in the US, too. There was an extremist Christian militia in Michigan called The Hutaree that was caught planning a terror campaign against police (including bombing their funeral), and the Homeland Security report on them said they had more weapons than all the people involved in 9/11 combined.

          Then there’s that whole “Crusades” thing. And the Salem witch trials. And the Inquisition. Henry VIII executed tons of “heretics.”

          The history of Christianity, both recent and not, is absolutely covered in blood.

      • Sad, sounds like the guy is all lost I religion? I feel sorry for him or anyone.. No such thing as American Christianity? ” The core beliefs of Christianity are summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was resurrected, and thereby offers salvation to all who will receive Him in faith. Unique among all other faiths, Christianity is more about a relationship than religious practices. Instead of adhering to a list of “do’s and don’ts,” the goal of a Christian is to cultivate a close walk with God. That relationship is made possible because of the work of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

        Beyond these core beliefs, there are many other items that are, or at least should be, indicative of what Christianity is and what Christianity believes. Christians believe that the Bible is the inspired, “God-breathed” Word of God and that its teaching is the final authority in all matters of faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Christians believe in one God that exists in three persons”the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
        Christians believe that mankind was created specifically to have a relationship with God, but sin separates all men from God (Romans 3:23; 5:12). Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ walked this earth, fully God, and yet fully man (Philippians 2:6-11), and died on the cross. Christians believe that after His death, Christ was buried, He rose again, and now lives at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for the believers forever (Hebrews 7:25). Christianity proclaims that Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to completely pay the sin debt owed by all men and this is what restores the broken relationship between God and man (Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:10; Romans 5:8; 6:23).

        Christianity teaches that in order to be saved and be granted entrance into heaven after death, one must place one’s faith entirely in the finished work of Christ on the cross. If we believe that Christ died in our place and paid the price of our own sins, and rose again, then we are saved. There is nothing that anyone can do to earn salvation. We cannot be “good enough” to please God on our own, because we are all sinners (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6-7). There is nothing more to be done, because Christ has done all the work! When He was on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning that the work of redemption was completed.

        According to Christianity, salvation is freedom from the old sin nature and freedom to pursue a right relationship with God. Where we were once slaves to sin, we are now slaves to Christ (Romans 6:15-22). As long as believers live on this earth in their sinful bodies, they will engage in a constant struggle with sin. However, Christians can have victory in the struggle with sin by studying and applying God’s Word in their lives and being controlled by the Holy Spirit”that is, submitting to the Spirit’s leading in everyday circumstances.

        So, while many religious systems require that a person do or not do certain things, Christianity is about believing that Christ died on the cross as payment for our own sins and rose again. Our sin debt is paid and we can have fellowship with God. We can have victory over our sin nature and walk in fellowship and obedience with God. That is true biblical Christianity.”

      • You, so elequantly wrote what I felt as I read his post. Listen to the still small voice inside, we aren’t listening to the “garbage” spouted around us. I am not familiar with the form of “Christianity” he describes. I don’t find it in the hymnal nor prayer book, nor Bible, nor among Christians I know.

      • I have a difficult time understanding how many of you twist something so much it is not recognizable. His thought are my thoughts, and many others. There is no “persecution complex”.

      • Daniel,

        I think that there is a more than subtle difference between preaching against sin and setting people free from the wages of their sin. Jesus ate with sinners and also preached against people who would emphasize that there was a distinction between sinners (e.g., the Pharisees righteousness was supposed to show how different they were from the hoi polloi but Jesus told them they were really just whitewashed tombs). Jesus freed people from their sin; the church (at least the one that I’ve seen), being mostly powerless, can only point out sin (conservative evangelicalism) or merely love on the sinner (Progressives), but where is the power and grace that Jesus walked in, that’s what I want to know.
        Too often I have met those who wish to play the role of the Spirit in wanting to convict others of their sin, but that’s a task outside of their job class. Paul tells us that we should confront sin when we see it in our brother or sister, but he says nothing about doing the same for the world. When it came to the world, we so often see the power of God moving through Paul so much so that when he speaks about the coming of Christ, his hearers can only respond, “What must I do to be saved?” It’s at this point that Paul will tell them to leave the life they’re living and to believe on the work and office of Jesus. Evangelicalism has it all backwards–we’re supposed to preach the good news and leave the rest to the Spirit, but instead we get sidetracked when we point out the flaws of others.

        Matt

        • Exactly. The Gospel is the GOOD news. It breaks my heart to hear “Christians” saying calling homosexuals vile names and insisting it’s out “love” and they are sharing the Gospel. That is not love as Bible defines it, and that is not the good news!

      • Matt, not sure how to reply to your message so I’m replying to the one right above it.

        I agree that there is a large difference in pointing out sin and helping people walk in the grace and forgiveness Christ offers. Also agree that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, not mine. For some reason, God uses human messengers to convey truth. That’s his plan and it’s still the best way to accomplish his goals.

        Yes, Jesus ate with sinners, but he ate with sinners who were very much aware of the guilt of their sin. The harshest condemnations of Christ were reserved for those who were unwilling to admit their participation in the worst of sins. The Pharisees and scribes assumed they were above the worst of sins, and Christ used shocking language to convince them otherwise. He was not without effect and there are examples of Pharisees and Scribes who heeded his call to repentance.

        Today, a new form of Pharisee has arisen, that looks different but has the same root problem. Christ’s problem with the Pharisees wasn’t so much that they were trusting in the traditions, it’s that they were refusing to admit the darkness of their hearts needed the light of the gospel to change it. So much of Progressive preachingteachingblogs, etc is about rejecting the notion that God came to change us and instead came to love us. The Gospel is about loving us enough to change us because we needed change. Yes, we are all sinners, yes we all need grace. However, to deny that grace is only given through repentance is to deny the only way to receive grace. Christ spared no words when he preached against the personal sin-denying Pharisees.

        Yes, we are born in sin, but that does not justify it. God has power to defeat even sins we were born into. Some people are more inclined to certain sins, like alcoholism, drug addiction, pornography, and homosexuality. Whether or not people were born this way is irrelevant if God is displeased with that lifestyle. I do believe people were born sinners, and that sin manifests itself differently for different people. Yes, God’s grace can forgive any of those who struggle with sin, even if the struggle takes a lifetime, but to receive forgiveness, their must be a willingness to call it sin. To be controlled by alcohol is sin and should be lovingly dealt with, rather than to deny the sin itself. To be controlled by sexual urges (adultery, homosexuality, pornography, etc) is sin, and should be lovingly dealt with. Yes, it’s hard to know how to deal with sin on a personal level and very hard to help another with their struggles in a loving way. We can discuss how we can be more loving, but please, let’s not take the easy path and stop helping people change, that’s not real love. It’s tiresome to be called hateful, and homophobic and bigoted for trying, however imperfectly, to help others understand sin is serious, and that God still loves them in spite of their sin. it’s God who judges people, real Christianity is just the messanger of his judgment and the way to escape it. I love sinners but not as much as I should. I should hate sin more than I do. Thankfully, I have experienced God’s grace much more than I deserve.

      • I immediately thought of this verse, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3

      • Bill Streb

        It may seem that way to you but the ones who have itchy ears is not a fair characterization of the suffering of many wounded and lost Christians. So the scripture this makes me think of is “The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.” Ezekial 34

        • YES. This. Where is this thread has anyone said “it’s terrible that the Church is losing people for this reason! What can we do to fix this problem within ourselves?”

          Not once so far.

          And that is very, very telling. A lot of people are more interested in being right than in doing the right thing.

    • Brad is one of the “God, I got your ass dead to rights crowd.” He believes that if you convert every phrase in the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) into a LAW, it will keep him safe from his incessantly angry God. It gives him two things:

      1) He can look at his day each day, look at the law, see all the things he did right, and feel safe (never mind all those things he did wrong but never noticed).

      2) At his final judgement, if God gets frisky with him, his plan is to open up the Bible and say: In the Book of John (blah chapter, blah verse): You, God, said. Well, I did that—now you are telling me I did wrong. That is not fair. You are required to do what you said you were going to do in my Bible. I got your words right here God—and you are not getting out of this until you do what is right—what you said. Notice how the inerrant, literally read Bible puts BRAD IN CHARGE at his own final judgement. God becomes a bit player in his own play.

      Weird job Brad. Just plain weird.

      • I enjoyed and to a large degree sympathize with the article.

        Brad, and other ppl who obsess over the old testament, are just like the “rules lawyers” in a Dungeons and Dragons or any game really.
        They lose sight of the spirit of the thing for the sake of trying to interpret the rules too literally.
        I see this a lot in evangelicals and baptists, and its a good part of why i stay away from any organized form of Christianity and the church
        This is generally what leads to fundamentalism and extremism.

        Me personally… I was taught that God made us all in his own image, and to me that includes all the people these folks love to hate on.
        I was taught that we were given freewill, but asked to do good and be decent to one another. To me, that leave the interpretation of how to do that good up to us all as individuals, and should we be called to explain it… we’re gonna have to make a case, not harp on what the ancient rule book says.
        just my two cents.

      • @dover1052 And what if God then pulls out another (possibly older) version of the bible and says “No, no, dearie. Your translation totally got that part wrong. Too bad for you, but that’s the rules.”

    • Of course, you would go on the defensive. You are the very thing I escaped from years ago and will always encourage others to seek similar escape.

    • Here’s another thing to add to the list…the instant labeling that happens when someone expresses an opinion different than “American Christianity” as John described it. I agree with John. If that means I’ve become “Progressive”, however that’s defined by you Brad, then I welcome the label. Jesus teachings were radical, then and now, but I much prefer his over American Christianity’s.

      • “Progressive” is an attack word that the religious Farrrrrr Right employs to describe anyone who doesn’t belong to this narrow-minded ,Elmer Gantry Entitlement program that the Rev Dobsons and their ilk subscribe to. This movement is right out of the mid-Twenties, which makes Gantry all the more a perfect metaphor for today’s warped batch pushing extremism inn the name of Christ. Don’t kid yourself. A religious figure that preached love, tolerance is now riding on the backs on brontosauri toting an AK -47…that is how warped things have become, and it’s good to see people saying,” OK, I’m off this crazy train, cuz this aint religion, it is toxic poison.”

    • Really? And the attacks and manipulation and the indoctrination of the “Conservative” Christian? These “sins” that have been owned and worn like a badge of honour for centuries by Conservatives? In fact, the only manufactured Christianity is the brand that has been manufactured by the Conservative Christian – your comment is dripping in irony, since Conservatives have been manipulating Christ and their religion for their own purposes for centuries. And you tell me you haven’t seen that? Your comment leaves me gobsmacked. It’s the typical, nonsense remark by a Conservative Christian that one has been accustomed to.

      • I think you are a brave soul who has wrestled with this question like many of us out here, and you put it eloquently into words. Perhaps God works thru you in a mysterious way like now, in order to help free His people from the false prophets they have come to embrace. Hmm..a thought…

      • John- how do we remove ourselves from this and still love those entangled in it? I am fine with it if I can just surround myself with those that think the same way but having to continually extend grace it is so so hard. Gosh- sounds like what Jesus asked of us :/

      • Aimee we continue to extend grace to all but we speak up when there is something wrong. Jesus did both he looked after the sick and called out sinners but he stood up to those who supported an oppressive religious system

        • Love it! I have thought this so many times. There are plenty of conservative religious sites for these folks to visit if they so choose. And yet they come over to sites like this to tell us how wrong we are. No, I think what’s really going on is that the progressive Christian point of view is seen as a threat to traditional American Christianity. And it is. Not because we’re out to threaten anyone, but because we challenge the status quo. Preach on, John Pavlovitz!

    • I recently left a very “Progressive” denomination, the UCC. I found the same sort of intolerance of conservatives. While the politics were left, you needed to be 100% in step with their progressive mantra. I would warn anyone who thinks Progressive Christianity is some kind of cure for disenchantment with religion. You’ll still find similar hypocrisies about the word of Jesus in those churches too. They just don’t always jump out at you as quickly as you might find in a conservative church.

      • so Kirk you are comparing progressive and conservatives by saying the have the same tactics and you made the conservatives appear to be worse because they jump out quicker. I am perplexed.

      • HELP ME! I CANNOT SEE THE TERM “PROGRESSIVE” IN JOHN’S POST! What’s wrong with my eye?

        I’ve been unchurched for 10+ years, and it has allowed me to grow MORE in my faith and transformation than ever before. After a few decades in “the Church” of North America, you can start choking on what my wife called the “Christian Hollywood” and lose sight of God in Christ, reconciling, indwelling, transforming, calling…

        You don’t “shop” a church, or denomination, or salvation, etc. You go where you are drawn to follow Jesus rather than man. Imperfectly is OK. As long as we have breath, I doubt we’d ever turn away, or fall away. Jesus’ got this. It’s actually a sign of spiritual health to want to be rid of any false burden, or shed weight for the journey, to want to go behind the walls. The kingdom is in our midst, not locked behind a steel door with an alarm system.

        There is so much hope that rises in me when I read or hear others who have felt a call to get out of it all, to find out that Jesus is way bigger and larger than religious politics, divisions, and all the toxic stuff that festers when there is not enough ventilation in a room…

        Peace to all on your journey following Jesus, whether you do it inside a denominational body or not at this point…

      • What I find funny is the Progressive obsession with “American Christianity” as the standard bearer by which all persecution of LGBT people is measured. This (of course) is done while gays are thrown off of roofs in the Islamic world. But this goes ignored because Progressivism, in its obvious and hilarious hypocrisy, does not acknowledge the fact that acts of hatred and intolerance can be committed by non-whites in non-western countries. Nor can the “intellectual class” summon the brain power to see the bigotry in the derogatory use of the term “American Christian”.
        Take Pavlovitz’s post; replace every use of the word “American Christian” with “American Muslim”, and you are left with something which would probably get flagged by all you “tolerant progressives” as a prime example of hate speach. So please, by all means, keep up the hypocrisy. It’s highly entertaining to read.

    • How is that any different then the multi heresy concoction conservative nationalist have cooked up for themselves?

    • I left the church many years ago because I could not find a church where I felt like I fit in. I felt like every church I attended was more about raising money for a bigger building or something that I viewed as superficial. I never felt dressed nice enough or rich enough or married enough since I was a single mom. Since leaving the church, I realized that I don’t need to be a part of organized religion to be a Christian. I decided to raise my sons outside of the church and they’ve grown to be men that I’m proud of, unlike many friends and family who raised their children in the church. My relationship with my Saviour is very precious and special to me and I don’t regret my decision to keep it out of a church.

    • Such a sensible article; I knew there’d be at least one person who would feel compelled to vomit in the comment section. Was not disappointed.

    • It really doesn’t matter what you think or how you feel. There is only one bible and one God you either live by God’s commandments by His word or you shall perish. He is unchanging. His word is unchanging we are to love everyone, But not their sin’s. A true believer does not question God but those that engage in those sins. When you start looking for something outside of God’s word or start using it to conform to your thoughts, beliefs or feelings you have fallen away from faith in God and the reality of what it means to love God. Why is there so many denominations today? Men’s feelings and thoughts trying to finding a better way, an easier way. I can assure you there is only one way to God and heaven and that is through the blood of Jesus Christ. There is no new wave, progressive movement or anything else only the word of God. Anything else is of Satan period. An easy way for all to understand is to be a christian a true follower of Christ is you either is or you ain’t there is no in between.

      • Wow, OK, maybe we could lay off the cliches that mean only one thing: we’re listening with our fingers in our ears. Do we have to talk like Bible apps in order to be Christians? NO. But we NEED to LOVE one another, for that is our testimony. As for the rest, even the devil can quote Bible verses better than any of us. And give it meaning. I’m learning that those who speak so passionately about leaving often have much more love for the truth than those for whom the doctrine can only be debated, not challenged and learned.

      • Randy

        I had a room mate who used to say “TURN OR BURN, all we have to keep in out thoughts focused on is TURN OR BURN !!” It is the motto her small group leader taught her. She was so full of fear and wound up bible quoting condemnation that I really felt for her but could not reach that place of human connection. In her mind satan was around every corner. She also said that since she started attending her (American style) church she hated people more than before because she could see how sinful they were. All of this backed up by Bible verses. She was on the more extreme end than you, but like you appears to be deeply indoctrinated by a harmful message that is aimed at demonizing people’s emotions and frailties. I really wish I had never experienced living with her but it opened my eyes to what some churches are doing to those who are susceptible.

      • Randy, are you Orthodox? Roman Catholic? If not, you are a member of a new denomination that has broken away from 2000 years of unbroken teaching about the Bible and the reality of what it means to love God. You are part of a new wave.

        • “Randy, are you Orthodox? Roman Catholic? If not, you are a member of a new denomination that has broken away from 2000 years of unbroken teaching about the Bible and the reality of what it means to love God. You are part of a new wave.”

          I’d have to take exception to that statement. Oh, I know the RCC teaches that it is the original church. But there are still churches teaching Christian doctrines that predate those of Catholicism, first century doctrines that Catholicism and Orthodoxy abandoned. So who is the new wave: those teaching the original teachings of the first century church, or those teaching doctrines that didn’t take hold until the third or fourth century?

      • You don’t seem to understand that there are many ways to interpret the bible. It’s not black and white at all, and there’s no reason to assume everything is to be taken literally. There are reasons for some of the rules God laid down that don’t apply anymore. The old testament laws have been reworked to come from a point of love and care instead of killing in the name of christ.

        • Amazing what this has unleashed. Such divisiveness and condemnation of any other belief systems that aren’t in lock step with what YOU blindly follow is sure fire hell and damnation for any NONbelievers.
          How about just having faith in a power greater than ourselves? How about letting go of superstition and stop quoting scripture & verse as if YOUR particular version of THE word is the ONLY one to follow. Why not instead just speak on your connectedness to the ALL good of the Universe, to nature and to ALL mankind.
          Heaven & Hell are right here right now based on how your live your life and of course depends on if you are truly walking the walk or just talking the talk.
          If the community that resonates with you uplifts you to be your best you and offers the opportunity to fellowship with a supportive compassionate congregation where you can also be of service than go there and be at peace.
          Like I’ve mentioned previously showing up in a ‘church’ doesn’t make you a good person or a devout one anymore than standing in a garage makes you an automobile.

          All our Creator wants from us is to use our God given talents and abilities to create a life of kindness & gratitude and leave the world a better place because of our having been here.

          We don’t do the right thing because we fear hell anymore than we do the right thing because we are trying to reserve a special place on high – we should live a moral and ethical life because it is just the right thing to do.
          I AM that I AM
          Peace & Blessings on your individual and collective journeys.

      • ” A true believer does not question God but those that engage in those sins.”
        That EVERYONE, according to the Bible. I hear “love the sinner, hate the sin” but no one who says that actually seems concerned with loving the sinner! What it really seems to mean is “love those with less obvious sins only”
        When the adulterous woman was brought before Christ, did he tell her “Repent, you’ve committed adultery you evil woman!”?
        No! He saved her, forgave her, told her he did NOT codemn her and only then did he tell her to sin no more.

        What do you hope to accomplish by telling non-Christians they are sinful? You are just as sinful as them! You are to lovingly correct your brothers and sisters in Christ–with the world you are to share the Good News–no go screaming at unbelievers that they are filthy sinners who need to repent.
        Anyone who accepts Christ must acknowledge their sin, that’s part of the process that begins and ends with the LOVE of Christ, not with a random person the internet yelling at them to repent.

    • So Brad, have you considered your reply as showing exactly what John is writing about? Your attack and blame on others’ beliefs because they don’t fit your narrow view of Christianity is exactly what is driving people from “organized” religion in droves.

      What is really sad is you and others like you are unable to comprehend life outside your dark little box of knowledge.

    • Please get a name change. You are giving all the other Brad’s in the world a bad name.

      American Christianity is straight up poisonous and on the same footing as what it calls the enemy. I welcome the author of this article to the other side of the aisle to join everyone else who hasn’t lost the capacity for rational thought.

    • Brad, I watched my aunt take her christian sisters to the doctor, to church, and grocery shopping. I watched her carry her friends groceries in the door, and do so much more.. Yet election time, these “GOOD” Christian sisters . told my aunt she would be singing if she voted democrat.
      I felt like I’d be sinning if I spent any more time with these folks. I quit them and now walk with God.

    • Brad you said it better than I could myself. I am gonna guess that some of the other replies to you were made by people that didn’t understand your comment.

    • He has finally realized that American evangelical GOP-worshipping is not the only form that Christianity could take. Most of us don’t live in fear that the pastor or his henchmen might hold the Keys to Paradise (Seems to me that Jesus appointed a specific person for that, and that person wasn’t/isn’t “evangelical” or even American)

      Some of us know that sharing is not “communism” or some other scare-word, rather, that it is recognising the inherent equality of everyone, rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight…. Your church doesn’t get to tell God who He should like (remember that verse about “judging” and being judged?)

      I’m sure that, deep down, you are a basically decent person, but parrotting dead catch-phrases minted by power-mongers is hiding that. Try reading the Bible instead of using it to beat up people you have chosen to dislike.

    • Brad, John wasn’t speaking about political parties. You should ask someone to read this aloud to you, then perhaps you’d understand it better.

    • Brad you are EVERYTHING that people like us who HATE American “Christianity” are trying to get away from. Take your legalistic ass and go back to your hypocritical mega-“church”.

    • No where in scripture did Christ admonish anyone to become pompous egocentric power addicts who disguise themselves as “compassionate brothers and sisters in Christ”. As a matter of fact, Jesus himself condemned such things, consistently putting a mirror in front of the religious power elite to reveal to themselves and all people just exactly who they really were. And, I might add, he did this with love and compassion.

    • Either that Brad or you have not read the Bible. What John is saying is in line with the word of God. Before trying to attack him for speaking the truth, maybe we can search our hearts to find out what is the issue beneat.
      God is love and if we want to be in God’s kingdom we need to strive to becoming like our heavenly father. If we cannnot show love to each other and the others then what is the difference between christians and non-christians. Isn’t that what they do?

    • And….. there it goes, calling it Progressive to love your neighbor as yourself. Calling it progressive to NOT be the one who judges which sin is worse. Calling it progressive to say we need to remove hate speech when Jesus tells us to LOVE our enemies.
      No this is not a progressive attack. I am a mother of 5 and grandmother to 12. I am tired of seeing the Word of God twisted to make it ok to turn our backs on our brother and sisters, to blame those less fortunate on what is wrong. I am tired of seeing American Christians wrap themselves in self righteousness while being the judge and jury over a gay couple getting a legal marriage certificate. Which if you are refusing service to gays, because they are committing a sin and it is against your religion you better not be serving anyone. We have ALL sinned and come short of the glory of God. No where in the Bible does God say homosexuality is a bigger sin than telling a lie, or gossiping, or being a lover of money, or not caring for you fellow man.
      Jesus calls us to love. To care for each other. The church is for the sinners more than those feeling they have reached sainthood. It is by God’s grace alone we are saved. I am a Christ Follower, I fall short everyday. I have no right to set in judgment or condemnation of my fellow man. I am however called to love, to welcome and to care. Maybe, just maybe if Christians SHOWED the love of Christ they could reach people for Him. I know right now American Christians are losing the battle for souls because they are choosing self-righteousness over love. But hey that is too progressive for some….

    • I think not – but perhaps he’s outgrown people who regard alternative viewpoints as “attacks, indoctrination and manipulation.” As far as I can see – and I’ve been at this a long time – what he’s talking about is the same thing Jesus and Paul taught, but of course they were really into a lot of Progressive manipulation, weren’t they?

    • Bravo, John! Beautifully said. Don’t worry about those who criticize you. They’re part of the problem you describe. Yay for you for having the courage to use the heart and brain God gave you! Congratulations on your freedom!

    • The destruction of American social conservatism and its bankrupt theology/morality is a worthwhile goal. Don’t knock the author for seeing the light.

    • Brad, You are correct! It is obvious his remarks are evidence of an immature Christian or one who is trying to force God into his box to fit his own life choices.

    • The very idea of a single “American Christianity” has been hijacked. Was it by televangelists? Maybe. But the promise of Freedom of Religion in the US Constitution means that there is not one branch of Christianity that “wins” over others. Or any other faith, for that matter. Our country was founded by men of reason in the AGE of reason. Faiths that teach the primacy of conscience over literal translations of text have equal bearing, their practitioners enjoy equal freedom and protection under the law. We are not a theocracy. Americans are free to practice, or not practice, ANY faith.

    • Thank you Brad~
      What he’s missing is that if he were a true believer and “follower’ of Jesus Christ, he would not allow the devil to enter his thoughts and cast doubts in prejudicing his progressive thinking into blaming our “country” on his perceptions of what Christianity (should) be!
      In a way he is judging as badly as he is accusing the “right”, as he is describing things like FOX News…. etc. (and THAT alone could be shot down with a great political debate!) 🙂
      You can NEVER base your faith on a “religion” or you will eventually leave it all. ONLY living and breathing for Jesus Christ will keep you in balance in all things… political, secular and spiritual.

    • Yours is a humorous response entwining your political prejudice into a supposedly spiritual response. You make the case for his post beautifully.

    • Brad, sometimes people can think for themselves. Deciding that American Christianity (such as he describes) is not for you does not equate with fully embracing whatever you think Progressives believe either. T’ain’t a dichotomy.

    • No,my being progressive is a result of my freedom in Christ. The American church has largely lost its way, its first love. It’s too busy self-preserving to love its neighbors let alone God.
      In my 40 years experience with the church, I found most people didn’t know God and really weren’t interested in getting to know Him better.

    • I have been connected to a Catholic congregation for the past thirty years, and I have yet to meet a single person who condones any of the oppression, rejection, or hatred that you allude to.

      If this is what you are hearing from your church, you need a different church, not a retreat from philosophy and faith.

      I find this statement to be somewhat immature. The church is an agency and an organization. Religion is a way to look for guidance and wisdom in how to conduct one’s affairs.

      Given that definition, why would anyone leave a religion? Leave a church? Sure.

    • The version of American Christianity that gets the publicity and is pushed so hard upon us bears very little resemblance to the message that Jesus taught as described in the Gospels. It is unrecognizable. “American Christianity” is a religion of exclusion and hatred, not the message of love. While many Cristian sects in the US practice a faith more in line with Jesus, their views are not represented in media. It is no wonder over a quarter of Americans identify as unaffiliated with any religion. They aren’t all agnostic or atheist; many are people who just gave up organized religion .

    • Yup. And their church will be very “tolerant” of whatever sexual deviancy you want to drag in. And their church will not defend any doctrine whatsoever which gives someone feelbadz. And their church will be very friendly with the Muslims right up until one of them blows up a few of their parishioners.

      Geez, this is obnoxious.

    • Brad-When Christians talk about letting the elderly and poor starve and go without medical care as the “Christian” thing to do when Jesus preached otherwise, it is people like you who are attacking. CHRIST WAS A LIBERAL. READ HIS TEACHING INSTEAD OF JUST LISTENING TO PREACHERS IN 10 MILLION DOLLAR HOUSES.

    • Indoctrination works both ways, unless you believe you invented your beliefs. American Christianity is all about what to believe. Real Christianity is about doing. First century believers had little theology. They went about doing what Jesus said and did. They turned the world upside down by their actions toward the needy, the neglected and the oppressed. They did this with little concern for personal safety and without government sanction. If you don’t see communal lifestyle in the book of Acts you have not read it.

    • This writer says that we Christians attack who ? Oh yes this is what he said, “I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.” ! Really then I can only assume you do not read nor believe in the teachings of the Holy Bible, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit nor anything He said ? The Bible clearly teaches that homosexually is wrong , those perverted relationships are according to the Scriptures ” an abomination” to Him ! As far as muslims, He does not hate the people just their belief. Ofcourse the “Atheists do not believe in Our Father Jehovah God, nor His son Jesus Christ, nor the Holy Spirit ! Evidently if you do not believe in any of these teachings, you do not believe in Satan, sin and Hell ! Poor you, you are sliding right into the devils lair at full speed and you try to blame others for your foolishness. One of the hardest things I believe will be in Hell will be in my opinion, they will be able to look into Heaven and see the Joyous Christians who tried so often to help them . After all wasn’t it the rich man who looked up into Heaven and asked if God would send Lazarus to tell his brother the truth so he would not end up in Hell where he was ? The Lord said “they would not believe even if a man rose from the dead, so what makes him think they would believe Lazarus !

    • Brad. No. It has to do with using one’s own mind and actually thinking about politics as to how they relate to faith. You’re basically parroting the nonsense that brings shame to the Gospel.

    • You don’t work 12 hours a day, six days a week because of “Progressives.” Your son won’t work in a foundry when he’s 9 years old because of “Progressives.” If you work more than 40 hours in a week, you will get compensated time and a half for it because of “Progressives.” You won’t live in a poorhouse with 100 others in the same large room when you get old because of “Progressives.”

      What have conservatives ever done for you or your family?

    • John Pavlovitz —

      Wow.I cannot fathom where you claim to be going to church in 2017.

      Sounds like someone from the 1950s.

      Seriously, is this type of man you described a common enemy today? Really? Are we to believe that there is a worldwide army of these kinds of preachers that we need to take a stand against?

      I’m referring to where you said (summarizing):

      >>>>> I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
      I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
      I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.
      I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.<<<<<

      Reality check: Any pastor I see anywhere today only talks about grace and acceptance and if there is a problem it is that they are never calling sin by its name.

      Frankly I wish there were more pastors who were calling sin by its name!

      I'm clueless as to who this caricature is that you are talking about.

    • I think he has outgrown American Christianity just as he says and has progressed to a new level of consciousness and understanding and God, Jesus is speaking truth to him. It is scary when we progress because we feel scared, guilty. But this is necessary for growth. John speaks the Gospel as Jesus meant it. Meditate on the Sermon on the Mount and you will see that John is, in fact, being guided by the Holy Spirit and it is HIS journey, not yours to judge.

    • That’s right, it’s a conspiracy for the common good. Relax.

      I too, see a big difference between organized and ‘disorganized’ religion, my preference. If you feel victimized it’s because you’re under siege from every direction. I’m so angry and resentful about the pedophilia and subsequent cover-up in the Catholic Church I don’t see why anybody would be a Catholic unless it was to clean house. Still, I see a way forward for Christians who want to truly work for the common good; those who share a notion of helping people and enjoying a chance to worship with others who are still open-minded and open-hearted to the wonders of creation and like to talk about it together. People need a community, a place to feel welcome and to work with other people the general good of those in need. Nobody knows what to make of God anyway. Why not reclaim his/her for the good of all and call it a church?? I always offer a disclaimer when I talk about my church because we don’t sell religion or need to ‘win’ somehow. Between the internet (TMI) and general confusion between Christianity and Capitalism we see everything as a commodity, even faith. I’m not ready to give up.

    • @Daniel The quote you are trying to say is, “Love me (Jesus) with your whole mind, your whole heart, your whole soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.” There is nothing at that point about obedience to what he says. In fact, he never says that in so many words. He talks about obedience to his father, but nothing about him.

      • Susan, yes, we are called to love Christ with our entire being…..but I must disagree with the statement that he never calls us to obey him if we love him. I’ll prove that in a minute. However, consider the following analogy:

        A man love his wife dearly, who has yearned for years for a dishwasher. She never demands or forces her husband to gift it to her, but through hints and statements over years, has made clear her desire. Her husband, who passionately loves his wife, has been saving money for one, and finally, on their 5th wedding anniversary, gets her one and installs it.

        That example, is what we expect from normal, healthy marriages. We expect to find two people who try to find ways to fulfill the desires of the other. Christianity is no different and in Ephesians, Christ even compared the relationship we have with Christ to the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.

        Consider the following verses (ESV)
        John 14:15
        “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

        John 14:21
        “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

        John 14:23-“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

        John 15:10
        If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

        1 John 2:3
        We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.

        1 John 5:3
        In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,

        2 John 1:6
        And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

        So the statement “he never says that (regarding obedience) in so many words” is not accurate. It was a a frequent part of his teaching. If we are to believe Christ, and follow him, we must believe that it is impossible to love Christ at the same time we fail to walk in his ways.

        Now, none of us keep his commandments perfectly. That’s why Christ died, to credit his righteousness to us who were incapable of keeping the law. However, there is a night and day difference between a person who is committed to following Christ and slips versus a person who just claims to be committed to Christ but has absolutely no willingness to admit his sin, ask for God’s help to walk in the way of God. One person is a child of God. The other is the worst kind of unsaved, the person who thinks they are saved but isn’t. Only God can determine truly between the two, but we encourage the 2nd when we do not present God’s expectation that if we love him, the course of our lives will be directed towards following his commands, because we want to please him, instead of ourselves.

        • Daniel, you missed one: “and this is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you…” That is his command, to which we owe obedience. He also summed up the whole of the law and prophets, as you know, that we are to love God and neighbor; then he added, “this is the whole law.” Our relationship to him is not that of law but, as you note in your example, one of love. That’s what Paul says in talking of the Spirit, answering those who want “obedience to the law.”

    • THere are many good books, but they are not on equal level with the Bible. What I am hearing in this blog, and not just from you James, is that the Church is bad and we must leave it…. Yet Jesus said He was going to build it… the definition of Church carries with it community, commitment, and accountability. Having jumped out of the boat into the middle of the ocean, how will you help build the Church Jesus was describing? Is this blog your only community? Have you committed to taking the Good News of Christ to the rest of the World or is your committment to tearing down those who are? Jesus said to his disciples… if you are not against me, you are for me (or something like that :)) Being for Christ in that context meant sharing with others the Good News (Everything Christ Taught) with others, not just dissing those who do it differently. I agree with you that there are some major problems in the Church of America today, but I have opted to be an agent of change within the Church.
      My family has problems, but because I love them, I have not abandoned them, just try to show the Love of Christ where I can and let Jesus speak to their heart. I need community (like the 12 disciples, the early Church, etc.) I need commitment to Christ’s cause, not just personal happiness. I need accountability, otherwise, my wicked heart will wander. I have willingly submitted to my wife… is she always right? NO! but she has been many times and she has saved me many times from shipwreck. Just as she has made herself accountable to me (and I’m not always right) but this system has worked for 46 years and is still working. We have both enjoyed the trip, grown, and expanded our influence as a result of working together! If you want to read a good book, read psychocybernetics… it is the secular term used to describe what the scripture teaches. ‘one will put a thousand to flight, two will put ten thousand to flight.’ When the pilgrams rebelled against England, it was because of a miniscule tax.
      and they discovered, the bigger they got, the more they had to be like England to survive. (Look at our taxes now. Ugh) But what we have here in America, while not perfect, is still the best thing afloat as far as allowing us to express our beliefs freely (like in this blog). I’m for it and instead of abandoning it, I’m going to do what I can to keep this ship floating. I don’t want to be in the cold ocean alone, cold, and just fighting for my own survival.
      Peace in your search!

  2. “If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place were the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.

    It should be the place where diversity is fiercely pursued and equality loudly championed; where all of humanity finds a permanent home and where justice runs the show.”

    Maybe it is because my denomination isn’t American- isn’t even related to the 35,000 Protestant denominations that grew in this land out of two bit con artist tent revivals. But I don’t see those three things as being compatible at all.

    Justice demands a lack of diversity- it demands a single objective morality that is the same for everybody. Only when we have justice as well as mercy, can room be made for those who are marginalized- who are outside of your vaunted liberal diversity.

    I still see you as American- you’re holding to an Americanist heretical definition of liberty- and because of that you’d rather see diversity than justice. You’d rather see homosexuals as slaves to their sin, incapable of conversion or change, than free them into the yoke of Christ.

    • It’s interesting that you attack “homosexuals” when that word was never in the original text of the Bible. Gay identity was not even formed until the 1850s… so where do you suppose your Bible’s translators got it from? NOT from Jesus, that’s for sure. So from whom? From a man’s interpretation of foreign texts that were interpreted from other foreign texts. The arrogance in your post speaks volumes about why John and others reject your narrow-minded, human-crafted, so-called theology.

      • “Gay identity was not even formed until the 1850s – where did you get this?!?! homeosexuals,gays, lesbians – whatever you want to label them – have been around forever!! you need to study some real history!

        • No, Lillian, there was no such labeling of people as “gay” or “homosexual,” even though they have always been around It is another category we have created, and relegated people to. Just as “race” in scripture never referred to skin color, although now it primarily refers to that. Homosexual relationships were much more common in Jesus’ time than in ours, but it was seen as fairly normal in most societies – unfortunately, most heterosexuals who engaged in it did it for purposes of expressing power over others and humiliating them. But there were also many who had what we would think are more normal relationship – based on love. Perhaps you need to study history!

      • I am a gay man, I am a Christian as well. I used to be a minister of music until I came out and started following Christ in complete truth, meaning, who I really was and no more pretending nor hiding just to be able to belong to a church. I have read, studied, etc. and I also agree that homosexuality has been around for centuries, it’s well seen in the Roman studies but I also agree that it was never an issue with Jesus nor never brought up by Him. The scriptures that are used against us were spoken by the apostles, their beliefs. I believe Paul and the other apostles had excellent teachings but they had their faults and problems just like any modern day prophet. My bottom line to follow is what I read from or hear from Jesus, and Jesus alone. He is my judge and King. Peace and love to you all!

        • Tim, just a note – you may know this already. The things said, in Romans, for instance, were not said because of homosexuality. They were said to heterosexuals who were in positions of power, who often would use young teens for sexual purposes, as a way of showing their power over others It was a common practice in the ancient world, just as it was common to rape slaves and, if you were powerful enough, even the wife or daughters of other citizens, to show off your power over them. Paul is taking about abusive relationships. Read some of the modern Pauline studies, such as Crossan’s, “In Search of Paul,” or others that talk about the background to which he speaks. One of the problems that fundamentalist and evangelical folks seem to have, generally speaking, is that they do not want to address the historical context in which these things were said. The tendency is to use a “cut and paste” method that merely affirms what they already hold to be true, resulting in a “faith” that mirrors culture.

      • you are correct that homosexual does not occur in the greek. However, the greek word means homosexuality in every sense. So when Scripture condemns it, there is no doubt that Scripture is condemning the activity we mean when we say homosexuality today. Words have meaning, and I am aware of no credentialed Greek translator that would say otherwise. Yes, it is possible to give a different definition to the word translated in some translations as homosexual, but that doesn’t change the original meaning. To say a man’s interpretation is irrelevant would mean that it’s impossible to ever translate anything, which is nonsense. Yes, it is an interpretation that homosexuality is the meaning of the greek word. But it is a correct one, validated by hundreds if not thousands of translators, 1,000 years of Greek historical documents, and hundreds of translations. I’d say it would be arrogant to deny that body of evidence in favor of an interpretation that has little if any support linguistically. I am not sure what you mean by “Gay Identity” if you state it didnt’ exist until the 1850’s. It is well established that homosexuality has been around for thousands of years. I’ve never met anyone who thought differently.

        Daniel

      • When the Greek was used, no English word had been invented. So therefore, we shouldn’t use any English words by that logic. However, since homosexual is a known English word, and the Greek word is a known word with a definite meaning, we can use the word homosexual as a fair comparison in English.

        We know the meaning of words from the way they are used, the description of the words, and comparison to other translations.

        Yes, the greek word used for homosexual in the ESV and other translations was used to describe acts of Homosexuality in the Greek language, that’s how we know it means that. Since we know what the Greek word describes and the act it entails, we can translate it homosexuality.

      • Daniel thanks for your reply. I will think about it more. It’s not an area I am well versed in but the studies of the text matched with context and culture don’t speak to my experience as a same sex attracted woman. It seems the scripture describes and labels groups that have nothing to do with me at all. So the word exchange by the translators does not fit. I am more moved by the verses which instruct me to keep myself chaste outside of marriage and faithful within marriage. The understanding of LGBT identity and our place in history is something which still needs to be looked at thoughtfully by all Christian scholars.

        • Just because Daniel says it’s so doesn’t make it so. I’d advise you read what scholars say about the words (there are several translated as “homosexual”) and see what they have to say about it. Daniel reminds me of a card I sent to my older (one year!) brother that showed two old guys on the cover, one pointing to a peninsula, and telling the other, “It’s a stick-out, on account of it sticks-out.” Inside, the card read, “Getting old means you get to make things up.”

      • “It’s interesting that you attack “homosexuals” when that word was never in the original text of the Bible.”

        I believe he wasn’t attacking homosexuals but the “sin” that enslaves them…seems you have over reacted and rushed to the defense of nothing.

        “Gay identity was not even formed until the 1850s… so where do you suppose your Bible’s translators got it from?”

        It’s been identified since the “law of Moses” as an ACT not by word description. Because words change over time, the bible describes things in action.

        “NOT from Jesus, that’s for sure. So from whom? From a man’s interpretation of foreign texts that were interpreted from other foreign texts. The arrogance in your post speaks volumes about why John and others reject your narrow-minded, human-crafted, so-called theology.”

        Sounds like you don’t know scripture. It doesn’t take a theologian to understand…so God’s word is available to everyone. Since you don’t know scripture, how can you discern to be correct?

      • Is there any activity or system of beliefs that is wrong? Is everyone’s Idea about God of equal value? What is the standard of Christian Behavior? If we used part of the Biblical text to justify our belief system can we ignore any other teachings that are prominent in it? Are we the arbiter of what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong?’ and if we are, doesn’t that make us God? I would have been more receptive to this article if John had authenticated all of his comments, both positive and negative with scripture. Does the absence of specific denouncing constitute endorsement? If it does, that opens us up to a lot of aberrant, self-destructive behavior that would, by your logic, have to be ‘approved.’ I’m just an old guy trying to understand a younger generation that seems to endorse exclusively the only part of the Gospel narrative that makes them feel good about themselves. JESUS said that the truth would be a divider… At the risk of being one of the dreaded ‘conservatives’ look at Luke 12:51 – 53. Truth is non-negotiable, and we must decide who the final authority on all truth is… is it me? you? or God? If it is God, we must decide which God it is… the one that we want to approve our behavior, or the God who gives us, in written form, His will? Sometimes, when I read the Bible, I am encouraged, sometimes condemned… should I ignore the feelings of condemnation? or should I learn from my wrongness and do something with the ‘talents’ that God had given me? I’m thankful for both! Encouragement and conviction! That is what creates in me a ‘clean heart.’ I love you all for you are fearfully and wonderfully made! BUT neither you nor I are infallible!

      • good point garyt

        However good behaviour and standards of ethics and morality is universal and can be accomplished by everyone no matter your faith. What distinguishes Christians from other people and religions is Grace. A concept too scandalous and radical to grasp fully yet. But there is no more eye for an eye, there is no more progressive or conservative, no high or low belief, no ying or yang, no rich or poor, no male or female, slave or free for we are all equal when it comes to God’s gift of grace.

        • Am I to assume that you are ok with the cannabalistic tribes that, as a part of their religion, eat people?
          Or some tribes of the American Indians that believed that if they killed another person their spirit would strengthen them? No, I don’t believe the religion of the Nazi’s that the world would be better off without the Jews (and Nazi-ism[sp?] is a religion) Would America be better off with no laws? That seems to be the logical conclusion of your argument.

          • Gary

            God is going to judge the people of God first and the unbelievers according to their conscience. The systems and civilizations that were made by men had people in them who were oppressors and tormentors and people who were victims and helped others. God will bring out of mankind all who have lived harmless lives. What do you think about that? A merciful God who loves all people? If you want a longer discussion about it I would be glad to oblige you.

      • Daniel, as someone who DOES read biblical Greek well, I can say without hesitation that there is no word in the New Testament that means homosexual or homosexuality.
        The word ἀρσενοκοῖται, found in 1 Cor. 6 and 1 Tim. 1, was created by Paul. We know this because it is found in no writings prior to those two epistles, and wasn’t used again until the second century. Paul used the word, but he didn’t define it. He evidently felt that his readers would understand what he meant by it.

        Before going on, I should mention that there is a common myth going around in some Christian circles today that claims that Paul coined this word from Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 in the Septuagint. This is not true. That myth was created by people with very limited understanding of Greek, who saw words that bore a similarity, and jumped to a conclusion… an erroneous one.

        So how did early readers understand ἀρσενοκοῖται? The first writer to use the word in the second century used it to refer to female prostitutes. And over the ensuing centuries, it would understood in various incorrect ways. However, it has only been fairly recently in history that people began to think the word referred to male homosexuals. But neither the grammar of the word nor the context nor the historical usage will support that.

        This word is formed by taking a word that means male and the verb for lying down and combining them. (Some claim that it’s the word for bed, not lying down. This is incorrect. Although it resembles the noun bed in Greek, it is actually a form of a verb, a different word.) The new word, literally, means “those who lie with males.” And for centuries, that is how it was translated. The Greek does NOT specify the gender of those lying with males. Neither did early translations. Even the King James, which for some reason translates the word in two different ways, never specifies a gender.

        If Paul had used the word with a definite article, it would have quickly answered the question as to whether it referred to men or women lying with males. But he didn’t. And the ending of the word could be masculine OR feminine. But here are a couple of things to think about: Paul, as a Roman citizen, was raised speaking Greek. That was the major language, the lingua franca, of the Empire. He knew the grammar of the language. If Paul had wanted this word to refer only to men lying with men, he could have made that perfectly clear by changing a single letter in the ending. The οι ending can never be feminine, only masculine or neuter. On the other hand, there was no ending Paul could give the word that would be feminine, but could not also be masculine. So there was no way to identify the word solely as feminine, without using a definite article. And since in both epistles, in these “lists,” he wasn’t using any definite articles, he didn’t see the need to use one with only this word.

        I mentioned that in the second century, the word was used to mean female prostitutes. And that is most likely the correct meaning. Now, it begs the question: why would Paul create a new word for prostitutes? Didn’t Greek already have one? Well, yes… and no. Centuries before Paul wrote his epistles, the root πορν– only referred to prostitutes and prostitution. But as happens in languages, over time the meaning had changed. By the first century AD, it had expanded to include any extra-marital sex. Paul had alreayd used this root to mean something else: πόρνοι = fornicators. And some could have argued that it didn’t actually include prostitutes for a couple of reasons. First, unlike the other forms of sexual misbehavior, prostitutes didn’t do what they did for pleasure or lust. It was a business, pure and simple. Second, the cult of the fertility goddess was alive and well, and prostitution was used in her worship. So those seeking a loophole could have claimed that πόρνοι didn’t include women having sex for money, whether as a business or a form of worship. By creating a word that specifically addressed women lying with males to whom they were not married, Paul closed any possible loophole.

        But whether that is exactly what he meant or not isn’t the issue: There is absolutely no evidence, grammatical, historical or contextual, that he was speaking about homosexuality. And only in the past several decades have we seen Bible translations that have put their own interpretation onto the word, trying to make it mean homosexuals.

        • Thanks – unfortunately your clarifying the issue so unambiguously will be dismissed by some on this blog as having “left the faith.” Oh, well!

      • Yup, 2000 years of consistent Christian tradition are clearly to be thrown out the window because teh gayz have feelbadz.

    • Justice: from Just:

      adjective
      1.
      guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness:
      2.
      done or made according to principle; equitable; proper:
      3.
      based on right; rightful; lawful:
      4.
      in keeping with truth or fact; true; correct:
      5.
      given or awarded rightly; deserved, as a sentence, punishment, or reward:
      6.
      in accordance with standards or requirements; proper or right:
      7.
      (especially in Biblical use) righteous.

      The religious definition of Justice implies an absolute morality within the framework of a particular religion. The secular definition of Justice is based on experienced life, which is inherently evolving. If we are to declare an “objective” morality, perhaps it should be the only essential one – the Golden Rule. As Jews are wont to say, everything else is mere commentary.

      • Actually, the biblical idea of justice is more like doing what is necessary to restore a right or “righteous” relationship. “Righteousness” is not so much a moral code to be adhered to, as “the demands of a righteous relationship.” In particularly a tribal community, the question is how to achieve balance again, and restore the community. Justice, ultimately, is founded upon the “justice” of God, who continually restores relationship with his people. In the Old Testament, as in many ancient cultures, this was done through ritual, including sacrifice. The New Testament authors claim that this is done, instead, by Christ. Paul declares that our relationship, then, is one of “grace by faith,” both toward God and neighbor, which tears down the barriers between us or, as Wesley said, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.” So – an “absolute morality” in terms of laws and mores is not required – as you seems to be saying, the only “objective” law is the law of love that comes, first of all, from the cross.

      • the so-called “Clobber Verses” are well-written about by much better scribes and wags than I. From the historical aspect, back in these ancient ancient very ancient days, masturbation was a crime in that one was “spilling his seed” when it could have been put to better use, as in knocking up a woman, so the tribe had more babies, and eventually, warriors. It was a simple world back then, highly superstitious, and full of competing tribes, as well as gods. If you had the big numbers, you likely lived a longer life.The bashing of gays via the Bible is so misinterpreted, it begs to be kicked in the chops. Sodom and Gommorah’s luckless populations were put to the brimstone not because they were a city full of homos, but because…they refused to help other communities, and were selfish,vain, and egotistical. Shocking, isn’t it? Much like…today’s people?

        • Much like peoples in all times and places. If I recall correctly, th guy that was called on the carpet for spilling his seed was having a personal disagreement, misunderstanding, failing to obey, or whatever with God that involved the spilling of his seed. It was never meant to be a general prohibition on masturbation. However, a lot of 19th century “health kooks” who believed all sorts of crazy things (e.g., girls should not play basketball because it damages the ovaries). They were also against masturbation for similarly kookie reasons, and they chose to seize on that old “spilling the seed” verse in the Bible to make it look like God was just as stupid as they were.

    • How did you even reach the conclusion that you came to in your comment? There’s no semblance of order, clarity or syntax to it at all. There is no such thing as a “single objective truth,” and in fact, what you are saying is actually evidence of the fact that all truth is SUBJECTIVE. Way to go to prove the author’s point. Keep up the good work.

      • By saying that all truth is subjective do you mean that it is subjective to the whims and changing nature of human thoughts and feelings? Or is truth subjective because it changes with the times? If there is no such thing as a single, objective truth, then truth has no meaning, every man is free to look at the Bible and interpret it how they are most comfortable interpreting it. Christ then didn’t leave us any help and we are left in complete and utter chaos as truth no longer is fixed.

        In reality, Christ did us a tremendous favor in leaving us Scripture. It has meaning. He was purposeful when he gave it to us. We are expected to follow it, understand it, and be ruled by it. It really isn’t that hard to understand what is meant, for instance, when Christ says-“if your hand offend you, cut it off” when explaining how we are to view sin. Yes, there are different applications for each of us, but if any of us find ourselves in sin, we are to take drastic measures, whatever is necessary, to prevent sin from having a hold on us.

        Truth is absolute, applications of truth vary. Your statement that “there is no such thing as a single objective truth” is in itself an attempted declaration of truth which by it’s very existence proves the statement to be false.

        Christ declared himself to be the Truth, and he is the absolute and final source of truth graciously given to us.

      • Truth is a revelation. Jesus reveals himself to us. To know truth is to know Jesus. To get to know the person of Jesus takes spending time with Him. The reason ‘truth’ appears subjective is because each of us knows Jesus based on the limits of our interaction with Him. For example I know my friend John is dependable because we live together and he has never let me down but someone else might know John as undependable because he is always late for hockey practice. We establish something as true or a fact once we have gathered all the evidence. But, we must be careful to consider what we stand on is actually Truth ie the ground- the rock, otherwise if we are actually standing on a rug and we might find it pulled out from under us. Even the ground can shift! So what will we do then? This is where we trust that Jesus is the Truth and is our rock- not any leader, not a book, not an organization. Though they can point us to Christ, they can’t tell us everything about Christ. We only see Jesus through our perspective-world view-lens. But sometimes we boast too much about how much we know Jesus and the truth, AND, that doesn’t benefit the one who thinks she doesn’t know Jesus very well at all. Instead we can encourage others to seek Jesus and know him more. Guide others. Cheer others on.

        “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink–even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk–it’s all free!” There are some really great positive Bible verse that give hope to those who lack hope

    • You hold an odd view of justice. Often what I find when I dig deeper into this theology is fear, not love; hypocrisy, not holiness; idolatry, not worship. It basically boils down to a lack of faith. After all, if one has absolute certainty about everything, why bother with faith! The notion of the infallibility of scripture is the greatest example of this among Protestants (as papal infallibility among Catholics ). This is an idolatrous ideology that makes claims for the Bible that it doesn’t make for itself, is blatantly false and intellectually dishonest. It replaces The Word Made Flesh with a word about The Word as the object of its worship. But then people can cherry-pick the passages that they interpret to support their personal prejudices, while ignoring the log in their own eye, and feel completely justified in condemning “the other.” This is the hallmark of fundamentalism be it Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, etc. The Bible is a sacred tool given to us through the Spirit’s inspiration but also through the imperfect filter of human experience and interpretation. Whenever Jesus is confronted with a question of the law, he takes it to its most extreme conclusion, thus insuring the impossibility of strict adherence. The only sinners with whom he deals harshly are those religious types convinced of their own righteousness. He makes it clear that God and God alone is judge and that his justice is full of mercy and forgiveness, love and compassion. Salvation is by grace through faith and by no other means. The worst sin is my sin, not my sister’s or my brother’s, not my neighbor’s or my enemy’s. Jesus taught that we should regard others as being for him unless they directly opposed him, and that we should judge ourselves as opposing him unless we overtly support him. Anything that teaches a culture of us verses them is antithetical to the Gospel.

      • The issue with denying infallibility is that Scripture becomes nothing more than a theological plaything. The Bible frequently refers to the perfect preservation of God’s word, the giving of God’s word to men who accurately recorded it. There are numerous Scriptures that refer to how God gave his word to men, so to say Scripture never refers to itself that way is an error. Consider just two of those references below. I will not now take the time to present other arguments in favor of infallibility, just to show that your statement is not accurate.

        “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16,17

        “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20,21).

        More seriously, if one denies the infallibility of Scripture, he loses all authority to claim to make any claims about. How can anyone emphatically claim anything if he isn’t sure it’s true? That’s the worst deceit of all!

      • “makes claims for the Bible that it doesn’t make for itself”
        So…. the part where it says “all scripture is God-breathed” means what, exactly?
        I agree some people misuse the Bible. That does not mean the Bible isn’t God’s word.

      • “How can anyone emphatically claim anything if he isn’t sure it’s true? That’s the worst deceit of all!”
        @Daniel… uh Daniel… tell me which parts of the Bible you are “sure” are true? I am interested because somehow we have managed to end up with around 40K or so Protestant denominations, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church, etc… all based on the same writings. Unless you perhaps have some inside information. Sorry to be facetious, but you have sawed off the limb you were sitting on.

      • “So…. the part where it says “all scripture is God-breathed” means what, exactly?”
        @jaquieduck… Not sure what it means, exactly. I can tell you one thing it does not mean. It doesn’t imply that any of us is ever going to fully understand it.

    • I’d rather see homosexuals understand the love of Christ through his followers and be convicted by the Holy Spirit of all their sins (which are no different or greater than anyone else’s sins)than see them driven away by the “church” that is so hellbent on expressing hate for sin that they have no concern for the salvation of the sinner!!
      Do you really think that shouting “homosexuality is a sin!” Is going to change anyone? Only the love of Christ can do that. Only the Holy Spirit can really convict.
      People who try to do the Holy Spirit’s job and are usually legalistic, unloving people who are more like the Pharisees than Jesus. They are the same ones telling women they’ll go to hell for wearing a dress that’s above the knee, or that God won’t hear my prayers when my head is uncovered.

  3. “If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place were the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.

    It should be the place where diversity is fiercely pursued and equality loudly championed; where all of humanity finds a permanent home and where justice runs the show.”

    Maybe it is because my denomination isn’t American- isn’t even related to the 35,000 Protestant denominations that grew in this land out of two bit con artist tent revivals. But I don’t see those three things as being compatible at all.

    Justice demands a lack of diversity- it demands a single objective morality that is the same for everybody. Only when we have justice as well as mercy, can room be made for those who are marginalized- who are outside of your vaunted liberal diversity.

    I still see you as American- you’re holding to an Americanist heretical definition of liberty- and because of that you’d rather see diversity than justice. You’d rather see homosexuals as slaves to their sin, incapable of conversion or change, than free them into the yoke of Christ.

    • How did you even reach the conclusion that you came to in your comment? There’s no semblance of order, clarity or syntax to it at all. There is no such thing as a “single objective truth,” and in fact, what you are saying is actually evidence of the fact that all truth is SUBJECTIVE. Way to go to prove the author’s point. Keep up the good work.

  4. I have been struggling with this. For a long time, I’ve been tired of the manufactured victimization of the Christian church. But lately I’ve grown weary, too, of the argumentative response of those who claim this is not the Christian church they love. I’ve begun to feel a need to step out, away from. It’s something I’ll be exploring this Advent.

    • The struggle can be really difficult and emotionally intense at times. At the end of the day regardless of what season you are in or what people you are surrounded with, it’s between you and him. When in doubt always come back to that. Human made traditions have rooted themselves deep within christianity only to form this weird faith system that doesn’t feel natural or right at times. Maybe those moments can be God’s voice as wel showing you the way out of things that maybe aren’t necessarily bad, but not the things God has on his mind for you in particular.

      Think of it this way, the almighty God creator of everything in existence, do we really think he’s going to confine his truth to just a few modern day era denominations that sort of tolerate each other enough just to keep numbers up?

      At any rate, I don’t know what your life looks like and where you are at, God forbid I’d force my views on you. But I want to encourage you that taking a step outside the door of a “church” lifestyle may seem scary at first, but it just may only be the beginning.

      He’s with you, always.

  5. I have been struggling with this. For a long time, I’ve been tired of the manufactured victimization of the Christian church. But lately I’ve grown weary, too, of the argumentative response of those who claim this is not the Christian church they love. I’ve begun to feel a need to step out, away from. It’s something I’ll be exploring this Advent.

  6. I so understand this struggle… I stayed in church where I didn’t ever really fit in, served faithfully, and ultimately spoke up, and was asked to step down from serving.

    How do you get fired from serving God?? I tried to hang in there, and beat myself up because I couldn’t be seen as a worthy believer.

    I served for years and never hurt anyone that I ministered to. I never had a complaint about anything related to ministry. The trouble began when I consciously could not be silent about the dichotomy I saw every week. The insiders and those on the outside of the Church.

    I still am not sure what to do next, but I know that love never fails is often a one way proposition; from Jesus to people, and not from church people to all others.

    The anatomy of the Church is changing, evolving, and hopefully becoming a place for the who so ever people of the world starting with America. The land of the free, home of the brave, in God we trust doesn’t seem to be reflected the way it was intended.

    I love the trinity, the church, and all people, but I’m not sure where to exist in the current model of Christianity. I’m labeled not loving because I dared to speak the truth in love.

    I try to take comfort in knowing that God does know my heart and that the Holy Spirit will lead me into truth. I just wish I had some people to do the journey with…

    • I had been a good Catholic for my entire life. I even worked as a Computer Consultant for the church. I was in the choir. I taught religious classes. All this at various times of my life.

      One day I was standing in the back of the church and the parish priest came up beside me. We both watched as the Alter Society readied the altar for Mass.

      “Are you looking forward to Easter Sunday?” the pastor asked.

      “Not really,” I replied, “I’ve always thought of Good Friday as the important day.”

      “What?” He seemed disturbed and surprised, “We are defined by Easter Sunday! If you don’t consider it as the primary holy day of the year, you aren’t Catholic!”

      I don’t remember if I said anything in response, but it sure put me off Catholicism! From that point on I spent a great deal of time trying to understand just what I did believe. I won’t go into the new precepts of my faith because they are only for me. But I will say this, just as God never made two snowflakes the same, he doesn’t expect us to worship him/her/it the same.

  7. Bravo……my few on organized religion came after multiple “church hurts” The last and most damaging was from my ex pastor at heartland church in Mississauga, who demeaned & humiliated me, all the while exalting and praising my abusive husband. Tooo many pastors, church goers etc etc have allowed to evil to sit in their pews unchecked and the I am not alone in my story; it has happens everyday to women in churches everywhere. “Of all the bad men; religious bad men are the worst’ Anon My faith in God is 100% but never again shall I ever step inside a church; never!!!

  8. Bravo……my few on organized religion came after multiple “church hurts” The last and most damaging was from my ex pastor at heartland church in Mississauga, who demeaned & humiliated me, all the while exalting and praising my abusive husband. Tooo many pastors, church goers etc etc have allowed to evil to sit in their pews unchecked and the I am not alone in my story; it has happens everyday to women in churches everywhere. “Of all the bad men; religious bad men are the worst’ Anon My faith in God is 100% but never again shall I ever step inside a church; never!!!

    • Take heart ,you are part of the body of Christ even if you don’t attend a service or step inside a building ever again. No one and nothing can separate you from the love of Christ! Your faith is incredible. I pray that Christ will heal your emotional wounds and continue to protect your heart.

      • You don’t have to be part of a brick and morter church to be Christian, but you do need the fellowship and support and encouragement of other true believers. I hope you find a safe place among Christians who truly follow Christ, among whom you can recover and grow in your faith. I’m sorry false Christians contributed to you abuse.

  9. Thank you sir, for echoing the thoughts I’ve been having as wel, but don’t even come close to putting them into words so elegantly as you have. I’ve spent around 7 years or so in a european church enviroment that was trying to be much like american christianity. So a watered down version of an already watered down product so to speak. And while I learned a great deal about how diverse cultures can be, and about the gospel (which I had to go look for online eventually) I also feel like I wasted a lot of my time there. So I’m glad and gratefull you are setting this example, maybe newcomers after us won’t have to be hurt by the paranoid ideas they put forth, the weird and awkward practices, the useless non-isseus that get debated to death, all of it.

    Thank you sir.

  10. You can’t box God up in religion.
    You can’t box Jesus up in Christianity.
    You can’t box church up in a building.
    You can’t box faith up in a set of beliefs.
    You can’t box grace up in conditions.

    The Kingdom of God isn’t boxed up in our churches.

    Imagine church without pulpits or pews, creeds or confessionals … no membership, plate-passing, pledges, regalia, heavenly choirs or altar calls.
    Without buildings to maintain or staff to sustain, the church no longer is seen as a private club or guilt-trip haven to heaven.
    Instead, its focus is on caring and sharing, living here-and-now, not the hereafter.
    Rather than part of our worldly empires, the church has become their antithesis.

    From guts to glory, the church begs reform.

    –From Bruce H. Joffe’s My Name Is Heretic–Reforming the Church, from Guts to Glory
    Book scheduled for release in January 2015

  11. You can’t box God up in religion.
    You can’t box Jesus up in Christianity.
    You can’t box church up in a building.
    You can’t box faith up in a set of beliefs.
    You can’t box grace up in conditions.

    The Kingdom of God isn’t boxed up in our churches.

    Imagine church without pulpits or pews, creeds or confessionals … no membership, plate-passing, pledges, regalia, heavenly choirs or altar calls.
    Without buildings to maintain or staff to sustain, the church no longer is seen as a private club or guilt-trip haven to heaven.
    Instead, its focus is on caring and sharing, living here-and-now, not the hereafter.
    Rather than part of our worldly empires, the church has become their antithesis.

    From guts to glory, the church begs reform.

    –From Bruce H. Joffe’s My Name Is Heretic–Reforming the Church, from Guts to Glory
    Book scheduled for release in January 2015

  12. Beautifully said. I left the church 3-4 years ago, and my relationship with God has grown in leaps and bounds since then. I’m sure there are plenty who would call me a heretic (I’m a bisexual universalist who believes God’s big enough to bring us all into Heaven), but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Freedom from fear is a wonderful thing.

  13. Reblogged this on Kobie's Blog and commented:
    Been down this same road, John, for the past 15 years. Many people will question you, but they are mainly those who are representative of the culture of religion you have walked away from.

    Good for you. God has been put in a big old box and it has the name of religions and denominations written all over it, all written by people who have been mislead and those who have mislead them. Some intentional but most not, I believe. Nonetheless, they are all responsible.

    I desire to know the one and only true God through Jesus. Each of our paths are uniquely found and walked. Those that desire to conform our spirits and our image of God into their own way of seeing him at some point are the guilty parties, unintentionally or not. Our American picture of God has way too many coats of paint on it and they must be stripped away. The terminology, the patterns, the style, the eco system of religion perpetuated by denominationalism …please, may it all go away! Stay with your pursuit. There’s a small army of us out there and it is growing every day. But community for those of us on this path is still critical, as long as we simply don’t make community into the new controlling mechanism either due to a cultish mentality or one that the ego of mankind won’t leave alone to live and breathe as an organism simply desiring to know God.

    Not in defiance but out of our own personal and desperate need many in America are sick of the same things in your list and are choosing a new path. I’m glad to be walking it with you and so many others who have simply said, “Something is not right here and I don’t want to be part of it any more!” I hope in the process God is more perfectly seen and known as He is, not as we have made him to be.

  14. I haven’t comfortably called myself a “Christian” for more than a decade. Not because I’m not a follower but because I stepped out of the room with the 2-way mirror calling itself Christianity and went off to find the nature of god and me within it. Ironically, *I* found it in paganism – which I’ve managed to comfortably marry up with the ideals of Christ. It works for me and I feel loved by God and comfortable in my skin in that place.

    Your path is yours. May you be richly blessed on it.

  15. I haven’t comfortably called myself a “Christian” for more than a decade. Not because I’m not a follower but because I stepped out of the room with the 2-way mirror calling itself Christianity and went off to find the nature of god and me within it. Ironically, *I* found it in paganism – which I’ve managed to comfortably marry up with the ideals of Christ. It works for me and I feel loved by God and comfortable in my skin in that place.

    Your path is yours. May you be richly blessed on it.

  16. I could not agree more wholeheartedly! First of all, the term Christian has been stretched and torn into so many pieces. Being a “little Christ (Anointed One of God)” is a lost understanding and it began the moment the movement Jesus began 2000 years ago marketed itself into the populist movement of the Greco-Roman culture, adapting itself and redefining itself to be acceptable by the broader world. Once the “CHURCH” became an established entity rather than just the called out body of believers, the whole idea of being Christian has morphed further and further from what God through Jesus intended. In the 20 Centuries since the beginning the divisions and divisiveness have left scars that have maimed and distorted the original truth. Not even the “Bible” as we know it is no where near what the original authors scribed on their parchments under God’s inspiration. As a student and teacher of Christian History, I am dismayed by where we have travelled in history but also by all the depictions of Christianity in America and around the world. I am advocating a movement back to EKKLESIA based gatherings of like-minded believers sharing the original (as much as possible) words of God’s logos – message of good news, echoed by Jesus.

    Today, the CHURCH claiming to proclaim Christian messages has nearly $3Billion in indebtedness for just its infrastructure, i.e. palaces of comfort and like facilities. Nearly 50% of most all CHURCH budgets goes to pastoral and support staff. When a member in the church passes on $1.00 in the offering plate, only about 10 cents actually makes it to meeting the needs outside of the church to help the orphans and widows and poor. The original EKKLESIA invested nothing in buildings, staff or administrative costs. The offerings went to where they were intended – to make sure no one was in need in their community of believers, which caught the eyes and hearts of new believers in the beginning. The CHURCH today has become the TEMPLE system filled with spoiled, overindulged priests and scribes and temple workers, just as Jerusalem knew when Jesus screamed, “This has become a den of thieves. It is no longer my Father’s house of prayer for the people.”

    The church I had been associated with locally has lost me and my family when it incurred $16M in debt for a new building project and the largest budget item of the church is the debt retirement followed close behind by its huge payroll/admin budget, and weekly begs for more giving and even came up with #giving Tuesday as a follow up to #cyberMonday advertisements to its members. This is so sad. The church I visited with my wife in KY last Sunday had a huge billboard in the social area that showed how giving can now be done via a simple txt app during the service or anytime it is convenient. The original idea of “tithing” from Deuteronomy has been flushed out with the baptism waters… Ugh!

    Hope you read the books I suggested as they will support what you are arguing…

    Mike Brown

    • Mike, I’m not exactly sure where you’re getting your numbers or what you’re identifying as “The Church”. How many and which denominations are included? Presbyterian? Baptist? Zionist? Catholic? Born Again Christians? How far does your net spread. The numbers seem pretty small to include the Catholics. I don’t think even their city of Rome holdings are that low. When you’ve had most of the great artists working for you for the last 8 centuries, you build up a bunch of equity!

      While the infant church didn’t have administrative costs, they did require all their faithful to turn their wealth over to the church and they lived communally. There wasn’t an all male hierarchy until the Holy Roman Empire. (that’s the movement you talked about) Until then most of the church business was handled equally between the sexes.

      Peter “the Rock” didn’t want Paul to take over the administration of the church but when Paul was transformed he pretty much just took it away from Peter. Peter wanted it to be a subsect of Judaism but Paul wanted to open it up to everyone. (That was the first split)

      Of course there was all the little conclaves that Paul wrote letters to. That’s most of the New Testament. So basically the church became half a dozen different entities before the 2nd century! Then a big split in the 10th century, 14th century, again in the 15th century, Henry viii’s Debacle, and we haven’t even gotten to the Huguenots!

      So basically there are thousands of christian churches. Where do you draw the line?

      As for the money catching new believers, that could have been part of it, but a much larger influence was the Romans. The Roman Emperors thought of the christians as something if an infestation that had to be quashed. They would round up as many as they could find and make great spectacle of them feeding them to the lions in the coliseum. They were given a chance to save themselves I suppose, though I’ve found no record of that yet. The people who watched the spectacle would exclaim, “Look at the way they love one another.” Apparently that was more appealing than being fed to the carnivores. Their numbers exploded during the Roman persecutions. Of course there were many other methods of killing, and I learned them all from the Catholics. They like to wallow in that kind of thing.

      So having made two short questions into a major thesis, I’d like to say I don’t believe in Jesus, the Christian God or any of the various religious boxes. I’m a theist (there is one god and it is everything [tree,soil,body,water,sunlight]) and a samahdi (no two faiths should be the same, so bugger off).

  17. Thank you, John- many times over! To me, you speak beautiful truths.
    I have evolved over the years to that same place where you are.
    To me, the closest guide to living a good and honest life is in practicing the 12 Steps.b

  18. Thank you, John- many times over! To me, you speak beautiful truths.
    I have evolved over the years to that same place where you are.
    To me, the closest guide to living a good and honest life is in practicing the 12 Steps.b

  19. This past weekend, I went to (and walked out of) three (3) service – two were non-denominational, megachurches, one was the Catholic church I had been going to until recently. All the correct things were being said, all the right things sung – and I was just as empty, alienated, unwelcome as ever. What’s been crossing my mind is that Lucy, in the Narnia stories, just follows Aslan even when no one else does – and she isn’t in a “church”. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your strength and all your soul’ and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ – this seems to cover pretty much everything.

    • And on that single nail hang all the law and the prophets. Here is a big ((((HUG)))) Ms. Yattwood. If we could all somehow buy into those words of Jesus and DO THEM, this world would be a much better place.

  20. So grateful for this post. So many of us are right where you are and agree! ????I will continue to follow and read your clearly inspired posts.
    I especially love “Spirit is boldly declaring its emancipation from the small, heavily guarded space that wants to contain it, and taking us out into the wide, breathtaking expanses of unfettered faith.” You are stepping into a beautiful faith filled future guided as you already are and have been. Now there is no fear for you. None of us should follow or be a part of something Jesus would not even association. “American Christianity!” HA.

  21. John, may I have permission to ost his on Facebook? I have several relatives, friends and Facebook “friends” whom I would like to ask to read it.

  22. I was on the same train for a long time. I disembarked at Buddhism and Neo-Paganism for a long time.

    But ultimately, I got off the train and stayed off at Orthodox Christianity. Despite its structure, it is freeing, and so very loving. And there is room there for Fox News-watching folks but also for Jon Stewart and Colbert-watching folks. I’m a damn liberal, and I fit there. My priest is very conservative, but he adheres to the belief that we must follow love and mercy. It all boils down to Love.

    So, if you were drawn to Christ’s teachings on love and grace and helping our fellow human beings, then please look into the Ancient Church.

    Your servant in Christ,
    Tanya

    • are you referring to greek orthodoxy, russian orthodoxy, or maybe catholicim or eastern orthodoxy or some other form of orthodoxy? i ask sincerely and will check what you say out, as long as your orthodoxy is not referring to the catholic church, which i have already rejected. thanks!

      • Greek Orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodoxy are pretty much the same thing as Roman Catholicism. My Uncle called himself a Catholic but he went to the Greek orthodox church. I went with him a time or two and I could find no difference in the mass or readings. The church was quite a bit more ornate and they still said the mass in latin–but I knew church latin so that wasn’t a problem. I later found out that the Roman Catholic church recognizes the Greek and Eastern Orthodox Churches as under the Catholic umbrella.

  23. I realized long ago that my personal relationship with God and his love expressed through Jesus had no place in conservative churches. I identify as a Quaker Christian, a person who uses the Spirit of God to guide me, not a church’s or another person’s interpretation of things. God’s Spirit has NEVER been wrong; when I ignored it, I paid for it (in the form of natural consequences) and when I follow it, there is always peace (not to be confused with always getting what I want). Good luck on your new spiritual journey.

  24. Thank you for saying this…out loud. I’ve been floundering around for years trying to reconcile what my heart and soul are telling me and what the church demands. I had come to the conclusion that perhaps I needed to walk away from Christianity altogether. But it is “American” Christianity that has become so vile. Not the Christ that I know. It’s encouraging to realize I’m not crazy. 🙂

  25. Thank you for saying this…out loud. I’ve been floundering around for years trying to reconcile what my heart and soul are telling me and what the church demands. I had come to the conclusion that perhaps I needed to walk away from Christianity altogether. But it is “American” Christianity that has become so vile. Not the Christ that I know. It’s encouraging to realize I’m not crazy. 🙂

  26. Thanks, John, for putting into words the thoughts and feelings that ripple through my body – but that I can never say as eloquently as you! I love the church, I love this country, but what you say about American Christianity is spot on. Thanks!

  27. Reblogged this on The Faculty Blog and commented:
    “If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place were the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.”

    • Frank Capra knew what the real church is. He showed it in his movie “It’s a Wonderful life.” One of the odd but interesting things about that movie was that when it first came out, it was a flop at the box office—a dud—something the American people did not resonate with. Only later did it become the big hit that it is today because more people have figured out that God is love.

  28. Great read as always.  I’ve taken to almost dropping the word religion altogether (Jesus never used the word) and substituting “faith.”  Seems to work for me. From: john pavlovitz To: fezo@rocketmail.com Sent: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 11:55 AM Subject: [New post] My Emancipation From American Christianity #yiv3144593609 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3144593609 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3144593609 WordPress.com | johndpav posted: “I used to think that it was just me, that it was my problem, my deficiency, my moral defect.It had to be.All those times when I felt like an outsider in this American Jesus thing; the ever-more frequent moments when my throat constricted and my ” | |

  29. Great read as always.  I’ve taken to almost dropping the word religion altogether (Jesus never used the word) and substituting “faith.”  Seems to work for me. From: john pavlovitz To: fezo@rocketmail.com Sent: Tuesday, December 1, 2015 11:55 AM Subject: [New post] My Emancipation From American Christianity #yiv3144593609 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3144593609 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3144593609 a.yiv3144593609primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3144593609 WordPress.com | johndpav posted: “I used to think that it was just me, that it was my problem, my deficiency, my moral defect.It had to be.All those times when I felt like an outsider in this American Jesus thing; the ever-more frequent moments when my throat constricted and my ” | |

  30. I appreciate the integrity of expressions of your growth. No to overstep a boundary, but have you studied Faith Development schemes? My sense is you’re moving beyond where once you were but not yet what you will become and that’s fabulous. I cheer for you! Patricia Neel >

  31. I was crushed to the core when folks started stereotyping liberals as non-Christians and not American. I am a follower of Christ who tries to do what Christ asked me to do. I am an American who loves my country and the values, including freedom of speech and religion. So I appreciate your putting into words what want begs for more notice: we are not loving as we should. And as soon as I write that, I am reminded: who can I love a bit more today. Change and Love begins in me, in my home, in my community, in my church, in my country and in our world.

  32. I was crushed to the core when folks started stereotyping liberals as non-Christians and not American. I am a follower of Christ who tries to do what Christ asked me to do. I am an American who loves my country and the values, including freedom of speech and religion. So I appreciate your putting into words what want begs for more notice: we are not loving as we should. And as soon as I write that, I am reminded: who can I love a bit more today. Change and Love begins in me, in my home, in my community, in my church, in my country and in our world.

  33. Congratulations Johnny Pavlovitz. You just found John 8:33. Justice and love—now go live it—but remember that those who do get nailed to crosses eventually. There is something about this world that hates people who do what you and Jesus are doing. But ultimately, it is because God is too big to fit in their box, and the notion that He is trapped in that box and resides there is an illusion. The Holy Spirit goes wherever He damned well pleases, stays wherever He damned well pleases, and does whatever He damned well pleases—and I just love that about HIM.

  34. My brother, you are not by yourself – I feel the same way. Like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. Excellent article, captured my sentiments exactly!!!  

  35. Congratulations! I say that sincerely. However, what you have freed yourself from is not American Christianity. Christianity in America is very diverse and there are many Christians in the U.S. and Canada, who have for a long time shared the views you now espouse. What you have freed yourself from is right wing, white nationalist fundamentalist Christianity. Now that you are free, I hope that you will explore the the range of Christian expressions in America that practice a more wholistic, healthy and life affirming understanding of the faith. I wish you many blessings on your journey.
    Geoffrey Black,
    Former General Minister and President,
    United Church of Christ

  36. Congratulations! I say that sincerely. However, what you have freed yourself from is not American Christianity. Christianity in America is very diverse and there are many Christians in the U.S. and Canada, who have for a long time shared the views you now espouse. What you have freed yourself from is right wing, white nationalist fundamentalist Christianity. Now that you are free, I hope that you will explore the the range of Christian expressions in America that practice a more wholistic, healthy and life affirming understanding of the faith. I wish you many blessings on your journey.
    Geoffrey Black,
    Former General Minister and President,
    United Church of Christ

  37. I have left the box myself, but clearly for different reasons than “progressive liberalism” that John and many of his readers have. Progressive “c”hristianity denies the Cross that bought Salvation. It denies God’s Holiness. It denies Scripture & it denies Christian History. It denies the diety of Christ Jesus and makes Him into merely a “role model” as opposed to what Scripture says He is: The Lord GOD Almighty Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and Everything in it. He is the Beginning & the End.

    I actually agree with John that the Church has left it’s first love and so often doesn’t display love. Embracing Islam, Atheism, and Hedonism is not the answer though. We are to FIRST love one another IN THE CHURCH, and then when the world sees that we actually “LOVE ONE ANOTHER” it will believe our message. Watering down the message of THE CROSS is NOT the answer. In fact doing so means you aren’t a Christian, but just playing one.

    • It most certainly does not!!! You are thinking about a small number of left wing extremists that are just as crazy on the progressive end of the spectrum as you fundies are on your end of the spectrum. Let’s do a checklist:

      1) Neither I nor anyone in my church denies the death on the cross, resurrection, and salvation by grace through Jesus Christ.

      2) Neither I nor anyone in my church denies God’s holy perfection.

      3) Neither I nor anyone in my church denies scripture. We just have a different understanding of scripture and what it means. The Bible itself never claims to be inerrant, internally consistent, or that it must be read literally. That is something man-made that you fundie buzzards have read into the Bible from outside of it.

      4) Denies Christian history? That is just plain weird. We go for the actual church history rather than the made-up BS church history you people have. One of my favorite fundie historical lies is the one where Christian fundamentalists claim that their fundie ancestors date all the way back to the first century A.D.—and you guys just hid out from all the other churches, laid low around your hearths, and passed your fundie faith on to the next generation around the hearths until about 1900 A.D. when God threw you a coming out party as the one “true” Christian faith.

      5) Neither I nor anyone in my church denies the deity of Jesus Christ—and He is a great role model for anyone.

      6) I see almost nothing coming out of the fundie church that looks like real love. The fundie decision in the early 20th century to go militant against the rest of Christendom and accuse them of being apostates pretty much buried “love one another” 6 feet underground. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!!!

      I am just amazed. Do they teach you all this false shit down at your church? Are you really stupid enough to believe that what they are telling you is true? Unbelievable!!!!

      • Question:

        If you do not accept that the Bible is inerrant, internally consistent, and to be taken literally except in those place where it was not intended to be taken literally (parables, puns, figures of speech, Revelation imagery etc) then how can you know what Christ taught?

        If you do not accept inerrancy, you can not be sure that everything of Christ has been preserved. If you do not accept that the Bible is internally consistent, then you have a God who disagrees with himself. If you do not have a literal Bible, you have a Bible that has no meaning and is subject to every man’s interpretation instead of God deliberately choosing words to communicate to us aspects of his greatness.

        In reality, the Bible is the best preserved book the world has ever seen. The copy we have today is virtually identical to the earliest copies found except in word order and spelling. Inerrancy is not something to be rejected. The Bible is absolutely internally consistent. The fiery God of the OT is the loving God of the new. So much of progressive Christianity doesn’t like the hell fire and brimstone of the old testament (and the book of Revelation, and Matthew, and John the Baptist, etc.) so they find it inconsistent with other Biblical teachings not because it is, but because it’s incompatible with THEIR view. If you accept part of the Bible, you must accept it all to be consistent.

        The Bible was meant to be taken literally. Christ quoted the OT frequently, and assigned it a literal meaning every single time. Paul referred to the teachings of CHrist frequently, and assigned his words a literal meaning. For us to deny the literalness of Christ’s teachings is to deny that they have any deliberate meaning for us at all.

      • Daniel. I am going to give you the only reasonable response your very common, worn out, and false post above deserves because I have a policy of not spinning my wheels in a hopeless argument with a die-hard fundie. I do not argue with fence posts. So here is what I have to say in response to your pathetic post above:

        BULLSHIT—AND THE REST OF US 1.3 BILLION CHRISTIANS OUT HERE KNOW FOR CERTAIN IT IS BULLSHIT. WE DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS BULLSHIT. WE KNOW FOR CERTAIN IT IS BULLSHIT!!!! IN FACT, IT IS THE WORST KIND OF BULLSHIT—FUNDIE BULLSHIT.

        Visit my blog and take a good look at yourself in my mirror:

        https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

      • Dover, I attempted a thoughtful reasonable dialogue would be welcome to you since you claim to desire that and also claim that fundies refuse to dialogue with reason. Your post to me just now shows you aren’t really interested in dialogue with someone you feel is wrong. if I am wrong, convince me. I’m reasonable. No need for name calling and swearing.

        • To the best of my recollection, I have never claimed to desire a peaceful or reasonable dialogue with you. I also did not claim that fundies refuse to dialogue with reason. I have a great deal of experience interacting with fundies, and the one thing that experience has taught me above all else is that fundies stick to their guns no matter what because they love ignorance so much. Anything I say would never have any chance of penetrating through that steel wall of spiritual ignorance you have erected around yourself, and talking to you would be like talking to a fence post. I have better things to do with my time than wasting it spinning my wheels trying to penetrate your steel wall or talk to the fence post I have found every fundie to be. I also know that you showed up here to pick a fight with anyone who is not a fundie—or perhaps maybe specifically with me. I am denying you an opportunity to pick that fight because I know the modus operandi of every fundie is—“now let me show you how totally right I am and how totally wrong you are.” You take classes in college on how to make other people look bad in an argument—even when the other person is right. I only swear at you because your “kind” of so-called Christian deserves it—tons of it. And you went to school at Bob Jones University—and put that on bios and on resumes. I would not put that on the inside of my garbage can lid. Go get a D.D. degree from Oxford University, Cambridge University, Harvard University, Duke University, etc. You might learn something about the REAL Christian faith in those places. As far as I am concerned from this point forward, you no longer exist on this blog. If I receive a private e-mail message from you, I will file an official complaint with the company that services your email. Now git varmint!!!

      • Daniel

        I have some issues and some questions The interpretation of the Bible and biblical tradition was and has been always controlled by organized religion ie Christianity. Even the Anglican/Episcopalian church upholds the idea that the Holy Spirit inspired which books would be in the NT and which would not. Interpretation relates to meaning. My questions is by and large translators have done a good job- although from time to time a word has been used to mean something different than the original intent . Not that the translators did this on purpose but because they sincerely thought that was what was being intended (perhaps there was bias but I can’t say). Very much like how we assume each other’s intentions in the comment section. My question is does translation and not knowing the original languages and how they were spoken back in the day challenge inerrancy?

      • Daniel you really have me thinking now. What about Jesus and His use of hyperbole? That is a nightmare to consider for a literalist. After all he said if your hand makes you sin it is better to cut it off than go to hell. But in Gethsemane after Peter cut off the ear of the priest’s servant Jesus healed his ear. Would it not have been better for the priest to have lost his ear according to scripture? How do you reconcile inconsistencies like that?

      • Dover, I did not come here to pick a fight, nor am I a fundy as you call me. In fact, you don’t know anything about me. It appears your rhetoric is limited to calling people fakes and ignorant without proving that to be so. You insult my intelligence, my education, my motivations and several other things in one paragraph based on a bio on a website I have. I’m actually cool with that. What bugs me is that very rarely do I ever get an answer to statements from people like you. Only insults and vitriol. I’m not honestly sure why you feel that way about me since you’ve never met me and know next to nothing about me. I made some statements you felt uncomfortable with and they bothered you. Resorting to name calling and insults is exactly why I left the fundy movement. I didn’t expect that treatment here of all places. If I am ignorant, it should be easy to prove that, as ignorance usually is easy to show. You didn’t attempt that. I believe in inspiration and inerrancy, my concerns for who don’t are listed above. Insults rarely work. You may not have the theology of a fundy, but you do treat people like they do.

        Very judgmentally and hateful.

      • Daniel you are simply reacting to Dover and doing the same thing back to him. It’s cause and effect. He does make some good points and so do you. If you both dislike fundamentalism you might find some common ground at some point. Many of us have been hurt by the church and have seen the injustice, we have heard what people say we they think no one is listening and it makes us angry. You may not be that kind of Christian yourself.

        • Kathy. Something really odd and disingenuous is going on here with Rev. Daniel. He claims not to be a fundie anymore. However, he says that he believes the Bible is inerrant, internally consistent factually, and must be read literally in most places. This belief in inerrantism, literalism, and internal factual consistency is the chief defining characteristic of “classic” Christian fundamentalism in the United States (See Marsden and others). You can add to that the fact that his gravatar refers to a church where he is a pastor in North Carolina. This is an Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church. The IFB churches have a nationwide reputation for being the most rabid and venom dripping of all fundie churches—literally the poster child for the very worst of Christian fundamentalism in the United States. Not as bad as Westboro Baptist—but well on the road towards it. Even many conservative Southern Baptists think these guys are crazy loons. He got his Masters Degree in Bible at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. This university is “classic” fundie to the core, possesses a detestable history of officially stated racism, and is the kind of place you can get expelled for kissing or holding hands with your favorite girl. No one gets out of BJU without getting permanently scarred by the worst of Christian fundamentalism in one way or another. I am not giving this guy the time of day—and I think with good reason.

            • Matthew 7:6: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

              I have generally found that advice from Jesus to be the best policy when dealing with fundies because that “dog and swine” thing is precisely what they specialize in doing almost every time you engage with one of them. Just sayin’ from past experience. Jesus knew what the modern neofundies would be like, and he advised us to steer clear of them in most instances. Some are worse than others. The pastors are almost always the worst ones “…cause theyzuns is been to fundie school.”.

      • P.S. Kathy. If Daniel wants to fight with someone about the Bible, you could refer him to my friend Bruce Gerencser in Ohio. Bruce is a former IFB pastor with more than 25 years of conservative church experience. Bruce specializes in thoroughly destroying and demoralizing fundie pastors. You can check out his blog at the following link:

        http://brucegerencser.net/

      • Kathy: On the subject of Biblical “inerrantism,” this is one of Bruce Gerencser’s favorite videos because he is a big fan of the guy at the podium on the left—who basically rips Biblical inerrantism several new a-holes:

      • Kathy, I appreciate your posts. Feel free to email me and have a private conversation. I’d be glad to learn more from you and bounce thoughts and ideas off you.

        Dover, this is exactly why you are wrong and judgmental. I resigned that church a year ago. Haven’t been in the ministry since. I left for several reasons, the most notable being no one wanted to do anything about the gospel, which involves BOTH evangelization and taking care of the poor and needy. No one did any of those three things. The fact that they still have me on their website is a testament to their unwillingness to do anything but show up to church.

        I wish you the best in life, but if you stereotype all people who attend a certain college or a certain label or church name by your very broad paint brush of FUndie, you are gonna miss a lot of good folks doing a lot of God’s work in this world. I’m sorry you’ve had some bad experiences with some fundies. Some fundies are worse than others. Yes, I believe the theology of the basic fundamental movement with quite a few alterations, but it’s the general practice of fundamentalism in carrying out that theology I find abhorrent. There is not as much outward love from the church that happens to be sure, but which of us is really qualified to throw the first stone? Do I carry the full measure of the love of Christ in my heart? Nope. I gotta work on me before I start casting stones at others. I have found it is quite profitable to lead the way. People even in Fundy churches I’ve been in have been lacking leadership, and when they see a person doing the work of the kingdom and getting exciting results by the love they show, they want in too. I don’t know how people can attend the same church Sunday after Sunday and see the same people there over and over. IT’s a much more exciting brand of Christianity that goes outside the walls and deals with struggling people, see them grow, get your children involved with their children, etc.

        So yeah, I’m a theological fundy, but not a practical one as most understand the term to be. In my mind, the problem with Fundamentalism is not the theology, its the application of it.

      • Btw Dover and Daniel
        We do need to heal and move beyond the anger and outrage, the shame and the doubting, the depression and the negativity. I see humanity in both of you and think we are all moving in the same direction. As someone I respect has said in the past “we are all stumbling towards Jesus.” 🙂

    • Ouch! Islam, Atheism and Hedonism are so very different! I take it you have never learned about any of them. Islam is a religion and it includes Christ in it’s teaching. Atheism is very different from what I first thought. My brother is Atheist. Hedonism isn’t a religion, or even a way of life. It’s a judgement made about specific acts. Nowhere in the bible does it talk about loving one another in the church. Loving one another doesn’t require you pushing away knowledge of the world. How can you know what love is when you don’t know what love is not?

      You said we are FIRST to love one another in the church, but that’s not what Jesus said. He said, “Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind, your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” So FIRST you love God. Next you love your NEIGHBOR. Not the people in your church. The only time Jesus talks about the church is when he gives Peter the order to build his church. That’s it. That’s the only time.

      The message of the Cross is forgiveness. When Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek to give the romans an indication of who to take, Jesus says, “I forgive you, for you know not what you do.” Later when the soldiers are playing cards to see who will get his clothing, he forgives them too. Finally, he chastises God because he thinks he has been forgotten but when he realizes he has not been forgotten, he gives up his spirit to God, thus completing the sacrifice that had been required by God; He forgives humanity and makes heaven open to the holy once more. That’s what the sacrifice of the cross is about. Try reading the 7 last words of Christ. They’re in one of the Gospels but I can’t remember which one.

      Interestingly, Jesus never says he is God. He speaks of God as Father. He also equates us as his brothers and sisters; that God is our father too. I never got into that too much. By the time I found that out I’d gone into a more holistic view of the bible. Taking the bible as a book to be read from cover to cover rather than pulling bits and pieces out of it to memorize makes more sense to me. I’ve read it 6 times so far. I’m on my 7th read right now. Each was a different translation. Using a Greek/Hebrew/Latin/English dictionary I could get a much deeper understanding of what the bible was all about. You’d be surprised.

  38. Much of what you have said is spot on about much of what you have termed American Christianity but it does not describe all American Christianity. As a priest in The Episcopal Church I agree wholeheartedly with most of your complaints, none of which can be aimed at The Episcopal Church, which does not preach Hell fire and damnation but love and grace and does not condone war or misdirected nationalism. This Church has been vocally open and inclusive of all and promises to love our neighbors and respect the dignity of every human being. Please do not lump all American Christianity into one group of which to be free from.

    • Amen! Love the Episcopal Church! Its always been open and welcoming to everyone, even though it gets a bad rap for being “snooty.” Our church has spanish services every week and tries to include everyone in the community.

    • I understand why Mr. Pavlovitz uses this term though I am not completely convinced there isn’t a better one. The irony of “American Christianity” is that the modern form of Christianity he refers to (and is indeed prevalent in American society) is that it is at odds with American ideas of liberty. Let me speak from my experience growing up completely submerged within southern, hell-fire/brimestone fundamentalism. My father is an independent Baptist preacher (my family views Southern Baptists as too liberal). My entire family tree is inextricably rooted in Literalism. It wasn’t until college that I was able to see any other point of view (I spent my earlier education in Christian schools – my last few years in the basement of my grandparents’ church). There are so many facets of how they see and reconcile the world that I try desperately to understand – and just can’t. One of the most obvious problems that I see within their world view – which is mirrored by what Pavlovitz calls “American Christianity” – is how they profess to love America yet are essentially opposed to what the Constitution espouses: that every person has the freedom to follow and express their own conscience. What they love is the seed from which America sprung – its Puritanical history, its supposed Manifest Destiny. They can believe that we are essentially the new Israel – God’s new favorites. But, in reality, the time America established itself as a nation, it had broken out of the dogmatic constraints of its predecessors.

    • My parents joined the Episcopal church several years ago, and I also have several friends who are members. While I don’t see myself ever becoming a member (too much structure and ritual for my taste), they are the most loving, welcoming church I’ve ever encountered!

    • My partner and I had an experience with an Episcopal church plant near Nashville TN. For over a year, we supported its establishment with vast amounts of our time and our money. But then Gene Robinson became Bishop in New Hampshire … and all Hades broke loose. Suddenly our “hip, cool” priest became a rabidly anti-gay “American Anglican”. Later he tried to become a Catholic priest, but I guess the Catholics — in general — didn’t hate LGBT people enough, so he soon left that church, too. He’d make a great Southern Baptist, I can tell you that.

      We haven’t joined a church since leaving that one, and that was 12 years ago. Speaking for my partner (who grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition), we’ve learned more about God since leaving, than we ever did in any church.

  39. I’m with you too, with a humble heart.

    When I was a seeker, I sought both night and day.
    I asked the Lord to help me, and He showed me the way.

  40. I’m with you too, with a humble heart.

    When I was a seeker, I sought both night and day.
    I asked the Lord to help me, and He showed me the way.

  41. You wrote: “For the past two decades I’ve lived within the tension of trying to be in the thing and not be altered by the thing, but that tension has become too great. Ultimately it’s a spiritual compatibility issue.”

    My pastor often talks about being in the world, but not of the world.

    The world includes the human-created organization of the church. As Lutheran, I have always viewed the church organization with a certain amount of skepticism. Mankind invented the church as a tool to help us worship God, to serve God, and to draw together in community. The man we’re named after saw extreme danger in a church that wasn’t focused on God’s word, that substituted its manmade practices for God’s holy doctrine, and he spoke up.

    So I’ve always been alert to the idea that ALL churches need to be alert to the danger of substituting human preferences, fears, biases, etc., for God’s word.

    It’s important to separate the human, organized, earthly church from the forgiven, holy Church–God’s people, in fellowship.

    Hooray for being able to do that! May we all be focused on and guided by God alone.

    • (and by “all,” I include the Lutheran church as well, both in its larger procedural organization, and in my own individual congregation)

    • First of all, the biblical understanding of the word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.

      We are to gather together to life one another up. To help one another in our walk with Christ. If our walk with Christ means we call sin by anything other than what it is, we are deceived. You cannot walk Jesus’ path and embrace sin. You simply cannot. To think you can is walking Satan’s path.

      Sinning is not unusual. Not unheard of. Not really all that shocking. My sin is just different than your sin but it is still sin. What separates me from others may be that I understand and struggle against my sin and God and I alone will work through that sin. I lean on a body of believers (because here it seems the word ‘church’ is toxic) in order to bolster my walk and my faith. And I’m not so nieve to believe that there aren’t those who are also in sin and are amongst the body of believers I walk with, whose sin doesn’t come out in different ways. I’m also not nieve enough to believe satan doesn’t walk among us all and plant deceivers in the body whose only aim is to derail my walk, see me embrace sin as truth.

      So really? Much of this blog is just… strange. Naive and broken and it’s reaching a lot of naive and broken people, deceiving them into changing and distorting what the body is all about. It’s about understanding the imperfections in each of us and dealing with those imperfections on a personal level, not fighting about it and walking away from it.

      Like my ma’ma used to say, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. To turn away from the church is to turn away from the people. I don’t think that’s what God had in mind. Is it? It’s not perfect but then, in a world separate from Heaven, little is.

      • Julie I agree with you.

        But the other narrative is all the hurting people. No one is telling people to walk away from the church rather that we can be free from the toxicity. If that means leaving a church congregation for the sake of someone’s spiritual health then that is a good thing. But it doesn’t mean they are leaving the body of Christ.

        I don’t know any Christian who doesn’t struggle against sin. I would be interested to understand specifically what you mean by your comment that anyone here is teaching sin.

        As well perhaps satan cares less about our personal sin and more about the toxic environment which is allowed to continue to fester in some churches. Much of that environment is encouraged by a obsession with looking at sin. Kind of a rubic’s cube but if sin is what we primarily focus on and worry about we will be anxious, stressed and suspicious.

  42. Exquisite clarity, as usual. Bless you for your expansion and freeing yourself from bondage. I have always felt closest to God when outside in nature or listening to my cat purr. Never ever felt that in a church, where all they seemed to do was bully others who thought or lived differently and demand money that somehow went to new robes or a new church or house for the pastor, but never to the starving or destitute that they said it was for. And the viciousness and closed heartedness that I see being called Christianity now repels me. I got out years ago and God and I are closerthanthis.

  43. Great article that reflects many of my personal feelings. I left the established church several decades ago following a marriage to a verbally and physically abusive Presbyterian minister whose actions were condoned by the church “Fathers”. I was told that I should stay in the marriage to prevent discord within the church! I am so glad I left the straight-jacket of organized religion. I still have a faith but I can now decide for myself how to feel it and express it.

  44. I don’t really care what one believes. I care very much about how one acts. Too often people wrap themselves in the ancient creeds not knowing or caring that much scholarship and theology has altered these statements which were never unanimous even when they were created. Belief is a very big rock behind which much can be hidden. One’s actions are in plain view for all to see. Yes I am a liberal (You can jettison the term “progressive.”), and that liberalism tells me that many people, both ordinary folks and our leaders and would-be leaders, dupe themselves and others into thinking that they have the correct Christian formula. Guess what? There is no such thing. Paul and James could not agree. There are many points of difference between what Paul said and what Jesus is reported to have said. The Bible has so many viewpoints and positions that one can support almost any belief and even no belief by quoting it. That’s how we have come to develop over 30,000 different flavors of Christianity. So don’t tell me what I should believe. Along with Pavlovitz, I’m not buying it. I am still in the church (Methodist), and I intend to stay there. Like those cantankerous Christians at Corinth, I intend to continue to listen for God’s touch in the thin places, and I intend to continue to try to love myself, my neighbors and my enemies. Whatever else Christianity is all about, it is at least this much.

  45. I don’t really care what one believes. I care very much about how one acts. Too often people wrap themselves in the ancient creeds not knowing or caring that much scholarship and theology has altered these statements which were never unanimous even when they were created. Belief is a very big rock behind which much can be hidden. One’s actions are in plain view for all to see. Yes I am a liberal (You can jettison the term “progressive.”), and that liberalism tells me that many people, both ordinary folks and our leaders and would-be leaders, dupe themselves and others into thinking that they have the correct Christian formula. Guess what? There is no such thing. Paul and James could not agree. There are many points of difference between what Paul said and what Jesus is reported to have said. The Bible has so many viewpoints and positions that one can support almost any belief and even no belief by quoting it. That’s how we have come to develop over 30,000 different flavors of Christianity. So don’t tell me what I should believe. Along with Pavlovitz, I’m not buying it. I am still in the church (Methodist), and I intend to stay there. Like those cantankerous Christians at Corinth, I intend to continue to listen for God’s touch in the thin places, and I intend to continue to try to love myself, my neighbors and my enemies. Whatever else Christianity is all about, it is at least this much.

  46. I understand what the author is saying and its true, but it not restricted to American Christianity. The same ploy has been used for centuries by the power-hungry and manipulative. It doesn’t matter if its religion or nationalism or some other thing its all the same. The conservative group uses these tactics to control the populace. The conservative group from any country or or subcontext is only concerned with maintaining the status qua, No change, No deviation, No questioning, No disobedience, only submitting to those in power. And those in power care for nothing and no-one, expect their own place in power. Those preaching moral indignation as some “other” would sell their own mother to a butcher if their position, title, or income were threatened. The conservative group is the most dangerous of all groups because there is no depth that they will not stoop to insure their power and place. This is the darkest side of the conservative group. However, the conservative group is also the ones that hold together a national identity. The conservative group is also the traditionalist, the ones who keep the age old familiarities going that so many people harken to in nostalgia. It ultimately comes down to balance. The Never Change Anything are in constant battle with the Let’s Change Everything people. It the same all over the world, in every country, every religion, every race, every everything. And you are stuck in the middle of the machine. God is a being that created the entire universe and is mindful of 50 Quintilian moving components, and that is a conservative number. God is NOT human and does not suffer that failing, those short-comings, those misguided thoughts and actions. See God as far more than an American White Republican showering hate on anyone Not White Male and Rich. Those things are just what we complain about here in America. From a Christian point of view the lives of Christians in each country are very different, their views are very different, and those they are TOLD to hate are very different. The conservative group does not want anyone to question their power, or to do anything that might enlighten the individual. This is one of the reasons the bible was kept in Latin for so very long and even considered a grievous sin to own a copy in any other language. Because if people could read it for them selves then they would be able to make decisions for themselves, and threaten the power control of those in charge. Regardless of what you believe you owe it to your belief and to your self to study and understand as much as possible about it. Do NOT settle for being told, with out question, what something is or what you should believe, or what should be done. The more you act as mindless drones the more power you give to those wishing to use you. And that is ALL THEY WANT.

  47. Perhaps you may find something you’re looking for in the liturgical worship of a traditional Catholic or Orthodox Church? Just a friendly suggestion, though speaking from personal experience, Catholic and Orthodox communities are not immune to their own communal problems either.
    Good luck on your spiritual journey, wherever it may take you.

  48. Perhaps you may find something you’re looking for in the liturgical worship of a traditional Catholic or Orthodox Church? Just a friendly suggestion, though speaking from personal experience, Catholic and Orthodox communities are not immune to their own communal problems either.
    Good luck on your spiritual journey, wherever it may take you.

  49. I have long believed that American “Christianity” especially of the so called “evangelical” kind is counterfeit, that the Gospel has been prostituted for sake of the market place ( and that as much by the left as the right), and that to be a follower of Jesus is often in spite of the “Church” whether “evangelical” or “progressive” not because of it. The feel good churches of the digital Elmer or Eileen Gantries or the consumer user friendly ones of Spong and Oprah are actually two different sides of the same coin but with a different buyer. Theology that is not centred in Word and Sacrament is nothing more than a metaphysical MacDonald’s Happy Meal heavy on the sophistry! Theologians that do not pray daily and take Sacrament frequently are nothing more that gurus seeking to make megabucks on their celebrity!
    The fundamental question is the same one that Jesus asked of his disciples two thousand years ago and how you answer that is what determines how you live your life. “But who do YOU say I am?”

    • I say you are at least a cradle Catholic. Anyone who claims that one must take the Sacraments or end up a metaphysical MacDonald’s Happy Meal can only be a Catholic. Catholicism is at least as confining and blind as the “American Christian” churches we’ve been discussing here. It was a Catholic priest that finally gave me the push to find my true faith. He didn’t mean to. Jesus seems to have said so much that everyone can have their own pet quote. Mine is the one where Jesus bald facedly tells his disciples that he and his father are one. That what Jesus says is the same thing God says and vice versa. They don’t get it. Few do. A friend of mine has managed to equate Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to a passage in the bible. Thank the presence for diversity!

  50. Thank you. As a child I was taught that God is love and Jesus loved the little children, red and yellow, black and white….but somewhere along the way I discovered that that is not what church was like and I didn’t like it….so, i withdrew from the church I grew up in, tried a few churches along the way but in the end I realized that I do not have to be a member of a church into order to believe in God and Jesus and love. I have gone back to visit the church i grew up in (several pastors later) and the current pastor does practice love and has gotten the church back to helping others, among other good things. I like to visit the church now and perhaps one day i will return to my home town and become an active member again. But in the meantime, I pray and meditate/commune with God and Jesus and try to – to use a popular phrase – do what Jesus would do….love.

  51. Thank you. As a child I was taught that God is love and Jesus loved the little children, red and yellow, black and white….but somewhere along the way I discovered that that is not what church was like and I didn’t like it….so, i withdrew from the church I grew up in, tried a few churches along the way but in the end I realized that I do not have to be a member of a church into order to believe in God and Jesus and love. I have gone back to visit the church i grew up in (several pastors later) and the current pastor does practice love and has gotten the church back to helping others, among other good things. I like to visit the church now and perhaps one day i will return to my home town and become an active member again. But in the meantime, I pray and meditate/commune with God and Jesus and try to – to use a popular phrase – do what Jesus would do….love.

  52. John – I have the same feelings but I’m not as articulate as you are. My feelings have been given words and form by the “I am the Word” books by Paul Selig. I hope you will check them out (they are on Amazon) because I believe they will resonate with you as they have me. Best Wishes & keep exposing the truth!

  53. John – I have the same feelings but I’m not as articulate as you are. My feelings have been given words and form by the “I am the Word” books by Paul Selig. I hope you will check them out (they are on Amazon) because I believe they will resonate with you as they have me. Best Wishes & keep exposing the truth!

  54. dude clearly this post was upsetting to all the “christians” . I’m not a believer in any god but if I were, i would say “Thanks be to God that you have finally heard and understood the Love part of Jesus and and beneficient god. the rest of these godloons are just interested in pointing out who they hate and fear and who they think god is sending to hell. wasn’t there something in that bible book thingy about not judging? whoopsy! me too!

  55. I have found great hope and direction in Phil Yancey’s newest work VANISHING GRACE. He takes a hard look at the church in America, driven by the fact that in 2012 4,000 churches closed their doors. We have turned from our original call to be dispensers of God’s grace and have become the list makers, the condescending self-righteous rabble that alienate people from our God. I believe it should be mandatory reading by all pastors. I have renewed hope and encouragement to dispense GRACE whenever possible.

    • I’m thinking the bible should be mandatory reading for all christians. Like a book it should be read from front to back. No fair skipping the slow parts.

  56. Author, this is a good start and took bravery on your part. Sadly, the idealistic and all inclusive zeitgeist that you are now embracing is also a sham and contains fatal flaws that will gradually make themselves obvious to you, and you will move on from this too. You are now on a path that many before you have trodden, where eventually you will parse even greater truths. Excited for your journey 🙂

  57. Honestly, there are so many questions people in American Christianity are afraid to ask, because if they do start asking them their whole belief system will come falling down. I am so glad I started asking the questions though! I wouldn’t admit that the god I believed was an angry two-faced god. Definitely NOT the God revealed in Jesus.

  58. Here are two Jesuivan words of comfort seldom or never heard on Sunday mornings in the Lutheran church: “…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) and “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14;27

  59. One may not claim disdain for the Church but love for the Lord; for the Lord spoke of His Bride (the Church) as His very body. To disdain the eternal Church of Jesus IS to disdain Christ Jesus Himself.

    Of course, the author makes a distinction. He doesn’t go into dear sold snout who is the “true Church”, but he alludes to the same. To disdain a nation, or another governmental structure (religious, political or otherwise) is in many regards an infantile understanding of justice, because it is tantamount to saying people (the true structure behind such powers) are broken and sinful. Well, of course they are! Attacking fallen humans is a very easy (and very big) target! To lament a broken human system is always going to be accurate; insomuch as we are lamenting the inherent sin in humanity and calling out for the restoration only found in the Lord Jesus. Yes, people will fail you. Move on.

    See, the church is a hospital for sinners, not a clubhouse of perfect people. To lament that people have failed you (or that the human institution of the church has failed you) is simply to acknowledge what the scriptures teach about human frailty. So in this regard it is the author is himself who becomes the Pharisee, condemning the “sinful Americans” for being “sinful Americans”. He is priding himself on “not being like those terrible self-righteous, narrow-minded losers”, and he therefore shows himself to be as much the self-righteous bigot as the people he is castigating.

    Instead of calling out to others in patient long-suffering, he says he regards them as unworthy of his life, time or efforts. He is, as he says, leaving them behind.

    Who will weep for the Church, rather than throwing stones? Yes, our Lord will weep for His people: the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, the doubters, and yes, even the hypocrites and narrow minded. For Christ is our salvation, not some newly discovered path of the author’s newfound enlightenment to leave people behind.

    🙂
    Cheers!
    🙂

    • DW

      I can see where you would take this the as throwing stones because Jesus loves the church and so do we all who are in Christ. But Jesus loves every part of His church, every child that is His. And He levels some pretty harsh criticisms of the church in Revelations. It is up to all of us called by Him to listen to the suffering of our brothers and sisters and not get all indignant because they are upset. They have real wounds. The level of damage that has been done needs to end and Christians need to be healed and loved. It seems like to me that the hospital analogy only works if people are getting better and are being looked after and protected.

  60. One may not claim disdain for the Church but love for the Lord; for the Lord spoke of His Bride (the Church) as His very body. To disdain the eternal Church of Jesus IS to disdain Christ Jesus Himself.

    Of course, the author makes a distinction. He doesn’t go into dear sold snout who is the “true Church”, but he alludes to the same. To disdain a nation, or another governmental structure (religious, political or otherwise) is in many regards an infantile understanding of justice, because it is tantamount to saying people (the true structure behind such powers) are broken and sinful. Well, of course they are! Attacking fallen humans is a very easy (and very big) target! To lament a broken human system is always going to be accurate; insomuch as we are lamenting the inherent sin in humanity and calling out for the restoration only found in the Lord Jesus. Yes, people will fail you. Move on.

    See, the church is a hospital for sinners, not a clubhouse of perfect people. To lament that people have failed you (or that the human institution of the church has failed you) is simply to acknowledge what the scriptures teach about human frailty. So in this regard it is the author is himself who becomes the Pharisee, condemning the “sinful Americans” for being “sinful Americans”. He is priding himself on “not being like those terrible self-righteous, narrow-minded losers”, and he therefore shows himself to be as much the self-righteous bigot as the people he is castigating.

    Instead of calling out to others in patient long-suffering, he says he regards them as unworthy of his life, time or efforts. He is, as he says, leaving them behind.

    Who will weep for the Church, rather than throwing stones? Yes, our Lord will weep for His people: the poor, the downtrodden, the weak, the doubters, and yes, even the hypocrites and narrow minded. For Christ is our salvation, not some newly discovered path of the author’s newfound enlightenment to leave people behind.

    🙂
    Cheers!
    🙂

  61. Sadly it may just be your “Emancipation Day” from much more than “American Christianity”. Once the scales start falling off your eyes, they don’t seem to stop. I say “sadly” but, the sad part really is just seeing the illusions that you have had faith in for so long. It’s hard, losing faith, but it beats the hell out of being deceived into an unreasonable faith.

    Keep telling your story, no matter what! The haters are gonna hate and haters lie on both sides of your position. You’re either going too far or not going far enough. Bullshit! You are exactly where you are at this exact point and time and people need to hear where that is. I wish I could put my experience into words the way you do, people need to hear it.

  62. Reading the blog and all the responses from people certainly highlight that there are many of us in the same boat searching. We may have different experiences in a Church or through life, but the common thread is we are all seem to be looking in the same direction. Definitely inspires hope. Thanks to John and everyone who responded.

  63. Reading the blog and all the responses from people certainly highlight that there are many of us in the same boat searching. We may have different experiences in a Church or through life, but the common thread is we are all seem to be looking in the same direction. Definitely inspires hope. Thanks to John and everyone who responded.

  64. I think it is significant that everyone is looking for the real Jesus of the New Testament. Strip all the crap away, peel back all the tear-filled layers of the onion, and right there in the middle is Jesus. They can huff, and puff, and try to blow him down—but when the winds die down—there he sits at the center of everything. Ignoring him will not make him go away. He is not the kind to just give up and go away. When everyone else in the room leaves—He remains. I have always loved this guy Jesus and wish I could be more like him.

  65. I think it is significant that everyone is looking for the real Jesus of the New Testament. Strip all the crap away, peel back all the tear-filled layers of the onion, and right there in the middle is Jesus. They can huff, and puff, and try to blow him down—but when the winds die down—there he sits at the center of everything. Ignoring him will not make him go away. He is not the kind to just give up and go away. When everyone else in the room leaves—He remains. I have always loved this guy Jesus and wish I could be more like him.

  66. I think the author of the article thinks too much and listens too little. Maybe he doesn’t pray enough so he gets no answers. Maybe the one he is listening to is the one that is sowing discord in the church. Satan will get into the church anyway you allow him to. I feel sorry for the author of the article. Sounds like he has been unhappy for a very long time. Leaving the church is not going to fill the void of his unhappiness.

    • …and maybe Satan is already in the “church”….it could even be your church. Maybe praying a thousand times a day still doesn’t get “answers”. Maybe you don’t think enough?

      “I’m breaking free from religion for the sake of my soul.”

      Maybe it’s not just about being “unhappy”….

  67. I think the author of the article thinks too much and listens too little. Maybe he doesn’t pray enough so he gets no answers. Maybe the one he is listening to is the one that is sowing discord in the church. Satan will get into the church anyway you allow him to. I feel sorry for the author of the article. Sounds like he has been unhappy for a very long time. Leaving the church is not going to fill the void of his unhappiness.

  68. “Every day people tell me that this great releasing is happening within them too; that they are finding freedom beyond the building and the box, and rediscovering a God right sized.
    I am a Christian and an American, but I refuse to settle for this American Christianity any longer or be defined by it.
    I know that there is something much greater beyond it worth heading toward; something that looks more like God and feels more like love.
    Maybe you see it in the distance too. Maybe we can go there together.”

    You have perfectly put into words what has been happening in my husband’s and my life for the past few years. The Holy Spirit has taught us SO much and is continuing to teach us. I believe that the church is beginning to wake up, and RISE up to it’s rightful place. We are beginning to move in the Spirit. We are getting back to the basics of what Christ intended for His church. It’s an exciting time to be alive!

    Some of my favorite verses from the Apostle Paul out of Philippians 3:
    “12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

    15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.”

  69. I’m right there with you. I left church a couple years ago. It was terribly hard. I led worship, and music is my heart! I ran a women’s ministry. But one day I didn’t believe all the stuff that I was teaching. And then I defied the norm and actually started reading and listening to writers and speakers and preachers outside of fundamentalist Christianity, and I quickly found freedom! I love that there’s a huge online community of people who are on this same journey with me. I just hate that I know of no churches in my city that teach this freedom.

    • jeaniecorrea, my sister in ministry,
      i mean this in all honesty and 100% sincerity.
      if there are no churches in your city that teach this freedom…
      …you could start one.
      All you need is a place to meet and a handful of like minded people–even as few as four or five, and there are various ways you could find them.
      Each week you could have music, a reading by some author you admire, and discussion. Serve cookies and coffee (it is important to share a meal).
      I believe if you do that, you will attract others, you will lift one another up, you will build community, you will be church for one another, and in your own way you will be spreading the gospel of grace.
      peace be with you!

  70. No John, it’s not you.

    You don’t have a deficiency or a moral defect. Morality is not a matter of subscribing or adhering to some proscribed doctrine. Morality is how one lives in right relationship with others and with a God of love. Morality is about having the courage to examine how one is living in the context of how our lives intersect with our neighbors.

    In my book, you have nothing to worry about in the morality department.

    Being a person of faith does not require that you accept a specific dogma about the nature of Jesus, and I really wonder what Jesus would have to say about “American Christianity” as it is so often expressed today.

    Actually, I don’t wonder . . . but would Jesus really use the sort of language that comes to my mind?

    He just might.

    I’ve outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
    I’ve outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
    I’ve outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
    I’ve outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
    I’ve outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
    I’ve outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
    I’ve outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim, and Atheist communities.
    I’ve outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
    I’ve outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in anyway.

    Yeah, me too. I actually outgrew it about 30 years ago.

    But I didn’t outgrow faith.

    And so much of what we talk about in the context of faith, in the context of religion, in the context of “morality” has so little to do with faith, religion, morality, God . . . or what Jesus was really all about.

    I left traditional Christianity half a lifetime ago, but that doesn’t mean I abandoned Jesus. If the Jesus that I understand was walking with us today, I think we’d be pretty good friends. And I suspect we would likely share some common thoughts about the state of “American Christianity” as it exists today. And we would probably laugh about some of it, and cry about a lot more of it.

    I’m a Unitarian (There is ONE God) and a Universalist (There is one “US” and we are all inseparably united with each other and with the One God) – and that is my theology. It is the ultimate understanding of being one with the God of love.

    And while you and I may not agree on everything . . . I am inspired every day by how you share your journey with the world.

    I look forward to continuing the journey. Though we have never met, I consider you a very important friend on this path we walk.

    May we live in blessing.

  71. If I may make an observation, the most common thread I’ve seen in most of these posts is “sarcasm”, “biting”, “anger”, “rebellion” “extreme liberalism”, “extreme conservativism”, “blame”, “hurt”, “hate”, “personal opinion”, “independence”, “self importance”…I could go on. Are we all His sheep? Don’t we have enough issues with the onslaught of wolves from the outside?
    Another observation: Many Americans and Europeans (speaking of Christians) refuse to accept hard “Truth” because it separates the wheat from the tares and cuts between the bone and the marrow. It demands full “surrender” and “submission” to a sovereign God…concepts and terms which are not wildly popular in current culture. But, the Holy God of Israel is not moved by the devices of culture. His Word is a true compass. Uncompromising. Those who follow the context of the Bible can depend on it at all times…not JUST the red letters. Have you ever REALLY read everything Jesus said? It may knock your head off if you’re not ready to be sifted.
    Running away from the church, in my opinion, is not the answer. Finding a Pastor who is sanctified and solid in the Word, with fire in their spirit, with genuine love for God and people, and with no personal agenda…THAT is a highly plausible solution for helping the “church” rise from her weakened state. The “church” has lost her identity and become a divided house. This is VERY MUCH EVIDENCED by the opinions of the writer of this article and the comments which have been entered.
    As a side note: Personally, I believe EVERY American should be mandated to spend one month in Haiti as they approach the age of 18. Then, again at 35, and 55. This reality check is sure to wreck anyone’s “Americanized” Christianity.
    Thank you for allowing me to post.
    God bless all of you who call Him Lord~

    • “Finding a Pastor who is sanctified and solid in the Word, with fire in their spirit, with genuine love for God and people, and with no personal agenda…THAT is a highly plausible solution for helping the “church” rise from her weakened state.” Does that person exist??? Sadly, I don’t think so.

      • I agree Survivorgirl he would have to be superman, but out Saviour is Christ and there are many suffering people who have been abused, cast off and pushed out of places of worship where Christians gather. This is the problem which needs to be addressed in the Body of Christ. When Jesus is calling us out of the world to be together church organizations are excluding the very people Jesus is calling.

  72. If I may make an observation, the most common thread I’ve seen in most of these posts is “sarcasm”, “biting”, “anger”, “rebellion” “extreme liberalism”, “extreme conservativism”, “blame”, “hurt”, “hate”, “personal opinion”, “independence”, “self importance”…I could go on. Are we all His sheep? Don’t we have enough issues with the onslaught of wolves from the outside?
    Another observation: Many Americans and Europeans (speaking of Christians) refuse to accept hard “Truth” because it separates the wheat from the tares and cuts between the bone and the marrow. It demands full “surrender” and “submission” to a sovereign God…concepts and terms which are not wildly popular in current culture. But, the Holy God of Israel is not moved by the devices of culture. His Word is a true compass. Uncompromising. Those who follow the context of the Bible can depend on it at all times…not JUST the red letters. Have you ever REALLY read everything Jesus said? It may knock your head off if you’re not ready to be sifted.
    Running away from the church, in my opinion, is not the answer. Finding a Pastor who is sanctified and solid in the Word, with fire in their spirit, with genuine love for God and people, and with no personal agenda…THAT is a highly plausible solution for helping the “church” rise from her weakened state. The “church” has lost her identity and become a divided house. This is VERY MUCH EVIDENCED by the opinions of the writer of this article and the comments which have been entered.
    As a side note: Personally, I believe EVERY American should be mandated to spend one month in Haiti as they approach the age of 18. Then, again at 35, and 55. This reality check is sure to wreck anyone’s “Americanized” Christianity.
    Thank you for allowing me to post.
    God bless all of you who call Him Lord~

  73. well said John, and all of the very best on your new path. I agree with you on everything except embracing Islam. Atheists and homosexuals don’t bomb churches or destroy everything, nor do they have a hidden agenda (mass conversion, violence, rape, one doctrine/ dogma, no human rights, control of the masses by a few, total rule and obedience, etc) other than to ask for the same rights that everyone else has and that everyone is entitled to (every other human and citizen). Atheists and homosexuals don’t, as a group or identity, harm people or break the law – what two adults do in the privacy of their home, consensually, is no one’s business, nor is it harmful (other than, perhaps, to your morality but, since morality is subjective and a grey area, this is a moot point. it isn’t murder or robbery or fraud, as examples, all of which affect people and their lives). my faith and/ or religious beliefs are deeply personal, and therefore no one’s business. however, Islam is a different kettle of fish. Islam is a way of life, not only a belief system. Islam influences politics, social behaviour, law, governance, religious celebrations, the military, dress code, and even the food you eat and how you eat it – it is a tool whereby people are 100% controlled in all spheres of their life – Islam and how you live your life are not mutually exclusive (not like in civilized, European, Christian countries where state and church are separated (thank goodness)). Islam is so entrenched in the Muslim’s psyche that it controls his perspective on life, as well as his objectives and motivations, and his perspective and objectives are not the same as yours or mine – a Muslim does not see a happy place and a happy world where people of all walks of life, with differences of opinion and different faiths, live side-by-side, in harmony and mutual tolerance – this is civility, Islam’s doctrine is not. Islam’s psychology and dogma are intolerant of everyone and everything that is not Islam. and THAT is the huge difference. and, whether we like it or not, Christianity, for all its faults, is more progressive by nature, and it neither destroys nor bombs or forcefully converts, and operates within the boundaries of the law. whether or not you believe it or like it, Christianity is the VERY reason why we live in the free West; the very same West that Muslims are always desperate to flee to in order to live a more normal, civilized life – a life they crave and that Islam denies them. to deny the threat of Islam is ignorant and dangerous. and I am an Atheist by the way.

    • Depends on how you view statistics if your statement above is true. Also, what is initially reported is often viewed as the truth, rather than what actually happened. I think a more honest way to view it is to say that Christians bomb atheists and homosexuals as often or less often than atheists and homosexuals bomb churchesChristians. The story of Matthew Shepard is famous for being a story of anti gay sentiment…..except it wasn’t true. He was killed for money, not because he was gay. The media latched on to that and ever since there has been a belief that Christians want to kill gays, despite the fact that Shepards partner denied it was a gay crime and despite the well established fact that the testimony in court stating it was a hate crime was recanted and dismissed.

      Yes, there are a few radicals on the right who persecute gays, and it’s terrible, wrong and unchristian. But to deny the same stuff doesn’t happen on the left is being untruthful. I personally know of 2 churches that were mobbed by a gay parade and worshippers there assaulted as they entered the church. Police were called to protect the members. Does that mean that I can truthfully state that all gays are that way? Nope. Honestly, I have several gay friends, and all of them know that I believe the Bible teaches that the homosexual lifestyle is a sin. We are still friends. My boss is gay. We have a great relationship. It is possible to communicate Biblical truth and not be offensive. Just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I hate you.

      And atheists do have an agenda just as Christians have an agenda. Having an agenda is what you do when you believe something. If you don’t have an agenda, you don’t believe anything. I want my children to understand and know God. I am pursuing an agenda to make that happen. To that end, I plan their education, their time, try to influence their thinking. Tell them God created the world. Atheist don’t believe any of that and have an agenda to remove God from all public venues. They are largely being successful which requires me to work harder on my agenda.

  74. Yes, God is bigger than any nationality. Something that Jesus revealed to the Jews when He came to live among us. If you are searching for a way of life, a way of following Christ, that encourages you to open up to the hugeness of God’s grace then I would recommend finding a local Christian meeting that is full of that ethos – any local Quaker meeting near you?
    This next suggestion is not unbiased but please do get in touch with the Community of Aidan & Hilda in the USA. Go to their website and see if that will help you with the next part of your journey:- https://aidanandhilda.wordpress.com/

  75. Yes, God is bigger than any nationality. Something that Jesus revealed to the Jews when He came to live among us. If you are searching for a way of life, a way of following Christ, that encourages you to open up to the hugeness of God’s grace then I would recommend finding a local Christian meeting that is full of that ethos – any local Quaker meeting near you?
    This next suggestion is not unbiased but please do get in touch with the Community of Aidan & Hilda in the USA. Go to their website and see if that will help you with the next part of your journey:- https://aidanandhilda.wordpress.com/

  76. I read this article with mixed emotions. You see I am a pastor that God has placed in charge of a group of people who truly want to grow in faith and in the Knowledge of Christ while being salt and light to the world. We realise that God has given us many examples and admonitions about needing each other as well as needing the input of those in the five fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) to help equip us to full maturity. The alternative that the writer has chosen is to abandon organised religion. On the one hand I applaud this. Organised religion is what robs us of so much life, power and potential. I know that to be a fact. However, I refuse to believe that the only alternative is to disengage from everything that is not perfect. I have always believed that God “sets the members in the body as it pleases Him”. The answer then is simple, “Who has God hooked you up with”? I don’t think we can answer this for other people, but we need to answer it for ourselves. If I know where God has told me to be, then I need to maintain those relationships with that body of believers as long as God has not released me from it. This could be anything from a small fellowship to a mega-church. In other words, I am just finding the place in the body of Christ where he wants me to be. In that relationship I can receive and grow as well as contribute according to my abilities and giftings to the whole. This is where I can learn, grow, and serve. I would also say that there is no such thing as an “American Church”. There are churches in American as there are churches in every country, but in reality there is only one church, and that is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ made up of people who have been born again into the Kingdom of God. Our background, nationality, or any other natural distinction is not in any way relevant since we all have received a new citizenship. In other words, you should not be looking for the church that fits your fancy, but the church where God wants you to be connected to. It is impossible to read the Bible and not conclude that we need to be hooked up with one another in loving, nurturing, sharing, accountable, definitive fellowships. The local church that God has specifically called you to be a part.

    • Really?

      How long are you supposed to BEG people to accept you? To not treat you as if you were the carrier of some filovirus (e.gl? Ebola, Marburg) BECAUSE you’re Black, Female, Widowed, Over 17, Work Outside The Home, Prefer Computers With Real Operating Systems (UNIX, Linux), Cars With Real Transmissions (Manuals), Into Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, And Whose Favorite NFL Team Is Whomever Is Playing Dallas??????

      There isn’t a CHURCH ON THIS EARTH THAT WOULD ACCEPT SOMEONE LIKE ME – AND I’m TIRED OF BEGGING TO BE ACCEPTED.

      ANSWER THIS – IF YOU DARE

      • Hey, my religion would take you but it’s not really a church. My faith is Samahdi Monist. Monist is literally “one” or “whole”. You could say God is everything, literally everything. When I told my Dad that, he said, “You mean God is IN everything. That’s just grace.” When I told him what I really meant he looked horrified. I think he stopped talking to me for a while. eh! By then I was 50. I didn’t need his approval and he finally realized that. Anyway, Samahdi means “search” so together it’s gibberish. It does sorta have a meaning. If God is literally everything, then to find God we need to know the nature of all things. That includes a Black, Female, Widowed, Over 17, Work Outside The Home, Prefer Computers With Real Operating Systems (UNIX, Linux), Cars With Real Transmissions (Manuals)[!], Into Theoretical Physics and Astronomy[!!], And Whose Favorite NFL Team Is Whomever Is Playing Dallas. Tell you what. The place you need to look is my Samahdi Monist site: https://mincartaugh.wordpress.com/god-is-everything/ It’s a bit hodge podge but there are at least two pages on the faith. Good luck.

    • Hey R.Loucks

      We have a long way to go to get to healing and some rejected and excluded Christians feel angry or bitter. I hope you will see that it is a symptom of a much bigger issue and not a cause.

  77. I read this article with mixed emotions. You see I am a pastor that God has placed in charge of a group of people who truly want to grow in faith and in the Knowledge of Christ while being salt and light to the world. We realise that God has given us many examples and admonitions about needing each other as well as needing the input of those in the five fold ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12) to help equip us to full maturity. The alternative that the writer has chosen is to abandon organised religion. On the one hand I applaud this. Organised religion is what robs us of so much life, power and potential. I know that to be a fact. However, I refuse to believe that the only alternative is to disengage from everything that is not perfect. I have always believed that God “sets the members in the body as it pleases Him”. The answer then is simple, “Who has God hooked you up with”? I don’t think we can answer this for other people, but we need to answer it for ourselves. If I know where God has told me to be, then I need to maintain those relationships with that body of believers as long as God has not released me from it. This could be anything from a small fellowship to a mega-church. In other words, I am just finding the place in the body of Christ where he wants me to be. In that relationship I can receive and grow as well as contribute according to my abilities and giftings to the whole. This is where I can learn, grow, and serve. I would also say that there is no such thing as an “American Church”. There are churches in American as there are churches in every country, but in reality there is only one church, and that is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ made up of people who have been born again into the Kingdom of God. Our background, nationality, or any other natural distinction is not in any way relevant since we all have received a new citizenship. In other words, you should not be looking for the church that fits your fancy, but the church where God wants you to be connected to. It is impossible to read the Bible and not conclude that we need to be hooked up with one another in loving, nurturing, sharing, accountable, definitive fellowships. The local church that God has specifically called you to be a part.

    • Hey R.Loucks

      We have a long way to go to get to healing and some rejected and excluded Christians feel angry or bitter. I hope you will see that it is a symptom of a much bigger issue and not a cause.

  78. Great post John.

    I’ve left the church many years ago.

    I still appreciate, however, churches. I find them calming to sit in when visiting various cities in Europe. I also find myself, occasionally, singing hymns learned in my childhood. A few year ago I went to a Christmas midnight service in an old Norman church in rural England, and I can see the attraction.

    I could be wrong, but one of the problems that I see with American Christianity is that it has become tribal. The tribe is defined not just by their version of religious beliefs, but also by their political and social views. Deviate from any of these and you are out.

  79. Thanks for all the great discussion here, friends.

    I appreciate that everyone is a different place in the journey and sees these things from a unique vantage point. 10 years ago I may have indeed been Brad who started the conversation off by attacking “the other side” so I get it, but there is no other side, which is precisely why the “war rhetoric” I speak about in the piece is problematic and unproductive.

    The point is, there is a life of following Jesus on one hand, and there is this American institution that has grown out of that on the other. The former has been so encrusted with history, ritual, politics, and culture that it is now largely concealed. For me, this is about removing as many of those layers as possible and finding what is left.

    This is not about abandoning Jesus, Christianity, attending church, prayer, or the Bible (though for some it may be some of those things). This is about intentionally distancing ourselves from a cultural Christianity which really no longer resembles Jesus or what the early church was made of.

    Thanks again, all!

  80. Thanks for all the great discussion here, friends.

    I appreciate that everyone is a different place in the journey and sees these things from a unique vantage point. 10 years ago I may have indeed been Brad who started the conversation off by attacking “the other side” so I get it, but there is no other side, which is precisely why the “war rhetoric” I speak about in the piece is problematic and unproductive.

    The point is, there is a life of following Jesus on one hand, and there is this American institution that has grown out of that on the other. The former has been so encrusted with history, ritual, politics, and culture that it is now largely concealed. For me, this is about removing as many of those layers as possible and finding what is left.

    This is not about abandoning Jesus, Christianity,