Why the Atheists, Agnostics, and Non-Christians Will Save The Church

During a Q & A following a session at Wild Goose Festival, a man asked if I ever considered starting a church. I answered that I didn’t think so, because most denominations would require me to be less than fully authentic, and that I value being able to speak freely on the issues that matter to me without being beholden to a restrictive system.

Later he came up and identified himself as an Atheist. He said, “I think you should reconsider.” The man shared with me that he and other Atheist friends have been following the blog; that it resonates with them and that he believes many people not currently at home in organized religion would be interested in being involved in something living out the values he sees in the writing. It gave me great pause.

This has become a refrain I’ve heard echoed thousands of times over the past three years: people hungry for redemptive community that makes the world more loving, more compassionate, and more decent—no matter what it’s called.

It reminded me that Jesus spent much of his life with religious people, a great deal of it with non-religious people—and all of it with non-Christians. He’d set in motion a revolution of radical hospitality and counterintuitive love that defied precedent and confounded those who imagined themselves righteous. 

There’s a moment in the Gospel of Matthew, where Jesus says to the religious leaders who believed they had the market cornered on God, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you!” In other words, Jesus is saying, “These people, the ones you judge and condemn and look down on—they’re getting it. They have my heart. You’re the lost ones!” He was warning them that their religion and its arrogance had become a millstone around their necks, and that what he was building would be built without them unless they could be internally altered.

Little has changed in two thousand years. 

Now, just as then, the religious people commandeering the name of God have become the very thing Jesus warned the world against. They’ve become infected with hypocrisy, greed, and contempt—and they are the preventing people from seeing anything resembling the abundant life he preached about. Just as when his feet were on the planet, Jesus is telling us that God has outgrown the box we’ve tried to build for God, and we’d better be open to a new thing. 

And as part of me grieves what my faith tradition has become in these days, it’s also filled me with a near explosive sense of hope, as I watch what is being born in response to it. I see a strangely beautiful congregation assembling; many of those who claim the Christian faith—alongside those who no longer feel at home in the Church, people of differing traditions, those who aren’t sure what they believe, and those with no religious affiliations at all. They are all speaking together with a singular, steady, strong voice—one that declares the inherent value of all people, a love that knows no caveat or condition, and the desire to live these days together well. It’s as close to the thing Jesus was doing than anything I’ve seen before.

The skeptics, backsliders, doubters, heretics, apostates, and “sinners” are building the redemptive community the world needs. It was the plan all along. White people and people of color; men and women; straight, gay, bisexual, and transgender; the religious, Agnostics, and Atheists—they’re all feeling the same pull toward goodness.

More and more I am certain that the Church that will be, the Church that needs to be (just as in the days of Jesus), will be redefined and renovated by those organized religion disregards, ignores, and vilifies. It will be composed of the motley assortment of failures, frauds, and messes, who realize that the table isn’t big enough yet—but that it’s worth building, no matter what it’s called.

Jesus was a carpenter. He knows about building things. 

 

 

 

 

 

170 thoughts on “Why the Atheists, Agnostics, and Non-Christians Will Save The Church

  1. I love the optimism in this commentary, even as I do not share it. I pray you are right with all that is in me though.

    May the self-righteousness of those claiming Christianity but not behaving as Jesus commanded be given the ears to hear and the heart to absorb what you are trying to tell them.

    • And what Jesus “commanded” of them is to say that homosexual acts and abortions are good, and if they say they are bad, then they are pharisees and “haters.”

      If not that, then what is it that the “self-righteous” are not doing right?

      • As usual, “Joe Catholic” has to put words into someone else’s post so he can fashion a response.

        We all know what Jesus “commanded.” And what Jesus demanded we not do. Jesus also said only God was “good.” It is not our place to say anyone is good or bad. Show us where Jesus told you to call anyone “bad?” Show us where Jesus told you to condemn, exclude, or seek to harm anyone?

        THAT is what you “self-righteous” people are not doing right. You are not serving Jesus. You are serving a church (which is not God, was never meant to be God, will never be God), you are serving a political ideology, you are serving yourselves, but you are not serving God.

        • “On this rock I will build my Church.”

          Paul persecuted the Church and Jesus said to Paul, “Why are you persecuting ME?”

          I am serving Jesus (inadequately, I confess) by serving the Church he built and called me to be a member of. It’s not either/or.

          But I think I did hit the nail on the head. What it really boils down to for the progressives is that they accept abortion as a right, and homosexual sexual contact as normal and not a sin, and to see it otherwise is to be what? Hateful? Self-righteous? Serving “a church” but not serving a Jesus who is fine and dandy with killing embryos and fetuses and whatever sexual acts that are supposedly not “clearly” forbidden in the Bible.

          The servers of “political ideology” are the Progressive Christians, whose liberal Democrat politics and theology are one in the same. The former guides the latter. If liberal Democrats one day push for marriage rights between parents and their children, the progressive Christians will follow right behind and will call anyone “hateful” if they say it’s wrong for a mother to marry her son.

          Meanwhile…all are welcome in the Catholic Church. Anyone who comes with an open heart and mind and leaves their prejudices and misconceptions at the door will find it’s truly a place of reason and love, and that one can find some measure of peace there. Whatever baggage one is required to drop is for their own good.

          • “Joe Catholic,” you can think anything you like, you hit no nails.

            The only thing, “it really boils down to for the progressives” is that we accept human autonomy as part of our belief in freedom, liberty and privacy. Conservatives do not. The Supreme Court affirmed our belief.

            What you refuse to see is that it is not “progressives” claiming “homosexual sexual contact as normal and not a sin,” it is progressives claiming it is not our place to judge, condemn,exclude or rank sin. So we don’t. If God sees “homosexual sexual contact” as sin, that is for God to judge. Just as God judges every other human action. AND IF God does see that as sin, he also sees the many other sins that do not even register to you and that means God sees your hypocrisy on the issue.

            I think the Bible is clear on not throwing stones and I know that none of us are without sin. Therefore we ALL lack the standing to throw stones at any other sinner. Why you cannot see that truth is your problem, not ours, and repeatedly reframing what we say is not going to change your problem or make it mine.

            YOU are the one who admitted voting for Trump to serve your “political ideology” and religious belief, so again, you cannot put such a stance on us. Our sense and our faith told us what Trump is.

            While it is often (but not entirely) true that the Progressive Christian supports liberal Democratic politics when it comports with our faith, we are not the party shouting “Christian values” and displaying none. That is ALL on you folks.

            It is also not true that Progressive Christians follow all of the issues “pushed” by liberals. It is just not true and you repeating it will never make it true. You can pervert the meaning of not throwing stones all you like but it remains the basis for our position.

            If our faith leads us to a conviction, we stand up for it. Funny how you can only allow that choice for yourselves.

            What you need to ponder is why your political choices are so far from the teachings of Christ, not why ours are so close to them.

            Surely to the Lord, you do not think your comments here would tell anyone that they are “welcome in the Catholic Church?” That is really laughable.

            You do not have an open heart or an open mind and you have yet to leave your prejudices and misconceptions at the door! You are totally lacking credibility. To paraphrase Will Rogers, I would not belong to any club that you claim welcomes all.

            • Next time see if you can comment without the ad hominem bs.

              Of course none of us is qualified to “throw stones” at the adulterer, but neither are we qualified to say adultery is not a sin. It is a sin and a very serious one.

              We don’t have the right to judge the sinner and we don’t have the right to tell the sinner that what he is doing is good.

              And I repeat that all are welcome to join the Catholic Church where they will find all the Truth that God has revealed to mankind as well as the greatest measure of peace that they will be able to find in this fallen world.

              I’m curious about those liberal political policies that are not accepted by progressive Christians. Can you give me an example or two?

              I do not say that Republican policies align with my Catholic beliefs. But I choose to vote Republican since I believe all have a basic right to live beginning at conception and Democrats do not.

              • Sorry Joe, you last sentence is wrong. I know many Democrats, some who are Catholics who would never think of having an abortion no matter what.

                Some have empathy for those who must make a heartbreaking decision for their mental or physical health. Some realize that women and mothers have a right to live too. They also believe each child deserves to be loved and cherished their whole life.

                The other wonderful thing they know is that you or anyone who does not believe in abortion will never be forced to have one.

                Years ago many Catholics were Democrats because the Church was all about doing God’s work by helping those in need.

                Then abortion became politicized, but it has no effect either for Republicans or Democrats. Your rights and beliefs regarding abortion have actually not been affected.

                The government having control over a woman’s body is not small government and a man who never has to worry about such a thing happening to him is not the one who should get a vote in my opinion.

                Peace Joe

                • I should have been more precise. Democrat politicians and policy does not believe in protecting the unborn by law.

                  I realize there are Democrats who would never abort or want family members to abort, but that reasoning and compassion should extend to the unborn in other families.

                  • I think that that reasoning and compassion does extend to other families when change is sought or policies are enacted that offer proper health care regardless of income, a living wage, and hope. Stopping abortion is not achieved by forbidding it, but by making it unnecessary.

                    • Patricia wrote,”Stopping abortion is not achieved by forbidding it, but by making it unnecessary.”

                      If I had a penny for every time someone said this to He of the Many Names and the number of times he ignored it, I would no longer be living in poverty.

                      Seriously, though, that is the entire crux of the matter: we must do what is necessary to make abortion unnecessary.

                      Contraception must be available to all and all must be educated in its effective use.

                      We must end world hunger, world poverty, health care must be available to everyone so that people can thrive. Every person must receive a quality education.

                      Men need to stop raping women. Men who abuse women should be punished, not have the abuse excused.

                      Oh, I could go on and on.

                  • Joe my friend, This is a hot-button issue for both of us. In a perfect world abortion would be unnecessary just as Ms. Brush says.

                    Do you really believe you or the government or the church should be the decider of whose life deserves reasoning or compassion more – a woman, possibly a mother to other children, or a child? I cannot believe anyone can take that authority. You want to pit one life’s worth against another.

                    You have absolutely every right to decide that between you and your wife or whoever you make a baby with. Why can’t that be enough for you?

                    We will always have to agree to disagree about this.

                    As an aside no one likes blanket statements especially when they can be easily disproved. You do not like to be lumped into one either.

                    To me it like bringing a limp knife to a gun fight. There is no way for you to win.

                    I will always pray that someday abortions will become unnecessary.

                    Peace my friend

              • Joe, next time and every time, I will post as I see fit, and the BS is all yours.

                I was not speaking of throwing literal stones, but the fact is that none have standing to throw literal or figurative stones at any other person as we all sin and sin is not ranked in the Bible.

                You are not “qualified to “throw stones” at the adulterer, nor are you called to judge, condemn, exclude or harm. It has nothing to do with whether you choose to believe it is sin. Adultery is a choice. Divorce is a choice. Greed, cheating, fraud, murder, stealing, and a whole lot of other harm is a choice. Being homosexual is not a choice. If it is, when did you make your choice?

                No one says you need to tell any “sinner that what he is doing is good.” You do not get to decide who is a sinner or what their sin is either. It is not your place.

                You alone prove that the church you beckon people to join, does not possess or profess “all the Truth that God has revealed to mankind” as you push your agenda and judgment you have no standing to make.

                Your obsession with this blog and what John P writes also proves your church does not offer you “the greatest measure of peace” at all. Far from it. You are not a man at peace.

                I am sure you are “curious about those liberal political policies that are not accepted by progressive Christians” but you are fine with the conservative political policies that are not accepted by Christ. Odd huh?

                You admit, you choose R because you want the force of law used against females because the fetus is all that matters to you.

                • I think your ad hominem attacks detract from your message, but I don’t suppose there is anything I can do about them except refrain from responding in kind and stooping to your level.

                  Homosexuality is not a choice. Entering into a sexual relationship IS a choice.

                  No the “fetus” is not all that matters to me. That’a ridiculous red herring. I know my son was just as much my son when I could see his movements in the womb, and I didn’t stop caring about him after he was born.

                  I would like the force of the law to protect the unborn from evil aggression just as I want it to protect you and me.

              • What democrates and over half of all Americans understand is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. I do not believe that a fetus prior to viability is a life. I have no compunctioms about this whatsoever, and I am a Christian, no matter what your view of me is. Roe v Wade is the law of the land, and even Trump won’t be able to change that.

  2. John, after reading your posts I would not hesitate to join your church. Never joined one in my life, as I could not agree with the doctrines. I think you should consider.

    • That is most likely because they were “rot doctrines” rather than “right doctrines. I created an official term for such doctrines. The term is:

      Rot Docternes

  3. Dear John and all who read this,

    This essay is filled with such faith and hope. Yes, indeed.

    “More and more I am certain that the Church that will be, the Church that needs to be (just as in the days of Jesus), will be redefined and renovated by those organized religion disregards, ignores, and vilifies. It will be composed of the motley assortment of failures, frauds, and messes, who realize that the table isn’t big enough yet—but that it’s worth building, no matter what it’s called.”

    Pretty sure this exactly describes Jesus’ first followers.

    Something I am passionate about is trying to communicate to all who claim to follow Jesus that we have far more in common than all the stuff we choose to bicker about. I do this in a Facebook group called Celebrate What Christians Have in Common.

  4. I think because the “so called gospel” fails to properly address life and issues in life. The group you mentioned (of which I am one) understands more and how to fix things. We would all be much better served to leave our Bibles at home and listen to some wisdom spoken by what I call cutting edge thinkers!

    • I wonder what kind of “church” it would be if everyone left their Bibles at home. It does not sound as if it could be a Christian church if God’s word was discarded so easily.

  5. First of all atheists starting a church? Wanting you to start a church? Don’t you believe in Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords?
    This has all gone so far backwards.
    So strange to me, John, sorry, bizarre.
    Feel good “religion” to do good to all is not what Christianity is about.
    Just because Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes, does not mean will be with him in eterntiy because not everyone listened and obeyed :
    “When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’”
    ‭‭Luke‬ ‭13:25-27‬ ‭NLT‬‬
    It is just so simple, simple and beautiful:
    recognize sin for what it is, repent, seek the Lord thy God with all your heart and soul, each day and hour bec life is hard and sin is everywhere. As we love thy neighbor as ourself by helping and serving and not judging. But never try over and over in all kinds of religions and theories and philosophies to change what the gospel is.
    Jesus spoke beautiful words and harsh words.
    The crazy religious will also be told the same words; “apart from me I never knew you evildoers”, but so will the sinners who ate wt him and drank wt him that did not want to repent. As donthe modern new age Christians who invent their own philosophies.
    The gospel is a beautiful gift: Blood shed for our sin. Just everyone seek the Lord your God for a personal relaitonship , repent, and obey his obvious teachings.
    But not try to sofen the gospel and speak out against Christians in general. thats dangerous.
    We all know there is good and evil in all groups and wolves amonsgst sheep in all types of groups. New age as well.
    Seek on our own His grace and love and forgiveness.
    But sympathizing with atheists and agnostics to “save ” the church is waaay bizzarre teaching here.
    I get an email and usually delete but every few months reply. This one went too far.

    • Well Lindsay. What do you think is going to happen with all the unrepentant racists in the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches? Read my new blog article at the following safe link and let me know what you would do:

      https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

      I have known quite a number of atheists and agnostics in my time. I have yet to meet one who appeared to be any sort of racist from the things they said and did. However, churches are full of them—including relatives in my own extended family. I think the point John is trying to make—and I have seen this myself first-hand—is that many atheists and agnostics follow the WORDS and DEEDS of Jesus in the New Testament in their own lives (without the Holy Spirit) than many supposedly repentant Christian fundamentalist and conservative evangelical Christians who YOU DEAR LINDSAY would say: “Aw yeah!!! She definitely has the Holy Spirit operating in her life—no doubt she’s a real Christian.” John is simply saying, I think: “Wouldn’t it be strange if these atheists and agnostics who are closer in heart to the ways and deeds of Jesus were to start a church or get involved in a church movement that really would serve Jesus and worship him in Spirit and in Truth—because their hearts jibe with Jesus and his ways already?”

    • And yet, those are exactly the people Christ wants in his church. So many Christians fail to see that one simple fact. It’s sad, really.

    • Jesus is moving in the hearts of all who seek love and healing. I ‘d recognize His signature move anywhere!! Gathering people together to support one another through the suffering and make them less lonely and desperate..wow! He is the lens through which I see the arc of expansion. Anywhere there is a desire to reveal how sacred Life is, there is our Lord.

    • Do you not believe that ignoring the needs of the most fragile in our society – denying them healthcare, removing the safety net that protects them from homelessness and starvation, and closing our doors to refugees, IS sin? Let me answer that for you: Yes, it IS sin, of the most grievous kind.

      Can you really repent of that sin if you’re still doing it? You don’t get a free pass – “God has forgiven me, leaving me free to continue the sin.”

    • Why do you think that passage in Luke is about someone else and not about the Pharisees and religious leaders of the time? Even that verse is taken out of context as verse 30 states “And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.” That leads me to believe that the people he was referencing are not just the ‘sinners’ but are people that we all think are leaders and prophets.

      Jesus never calls out a group except for the church leaders who are leading people astray in his minds, or are using God as a way to be powerful among men. Most of Jesus’ teachings are about being humble and realizing our own faults so we can love others despite theirs. In other words, Grace.

  6. Atheists/ agnostics / non-Christians have no desire to save God’s people, nor could they.

    Jesus ‘is’ saving his Church. [He keeps close to his followers & He’s calling all who recognize his voice.]

    • leslie m, clearly after all this time, you are not kidding, but seriously I have to wonder if sometimes you are not trolling with your comments.

      Even if we ignore the premise for the life and death of Jesus, it is still abundantly clear that when he walked this earth he did not (beyond the Disciples) keep himself close to his followers only and he repeatedly met with / encountered people who had no way to know much less recognize his voice. He sought out the lost, unbelievers, and those not of the Jewish faith.

      I get that you have portions of the Word that you cherish, but why do you seem to just discard the rest? Over and over and over and over we are commanded to love, to serve, to humble ourselves in benefit to the salvation of others. Jesus all but ignored the righteous and he severely chastised the self-righteous. Does that even register?

    • My hair is entirely on fire after reading your comment…

      Leslie M.? How is Jesus saving his church? By whom is he saving His church? By you and I. And might I remind you that Jesus stays close to all. He keeps bumping up against all. He keeps knocking on the doors of ALL THOSE people’s hearts. And it’s not your or my prerogative to avoid bumping into them either.

      This, this right here is the very attitude that keeps those unaffiliated and not-so-sures, in desperate need, away. He’s calling all TO recognize His voice… Not just the ones in Leslie M’s country club of believers. And your voiced opinion shows you must be hearing someone else. He’s a friend to tax collectors and sinners, remember?

      Yes, he said to shake off the dust from our feet but we speak first, invite. Maybe you need to work on your invitation. Or better yet, shine a little brighter.

      Somebody put out the flames because I’m just blazing beyond belief at what I read in these comments. The smugness of those who call themselves Christians. I suppose I can be grateful because when I read things like this, the Gospel comes alive in and so intense. His character is so much more vivid compared to our poor, pitiful state. I give thanks. As a reminder to not let myself slip so far into ‘comfort of the chosen’ that I become lazy-because that’s a fast track to hell.

      You go right ahead and keep skirting those you’ve aleady comdemned and pronounced unworthy, miss. I’d love to hear your explanation to Him.

      Woowee-

      Good Lord, if it were up to you we’d all sit and huddle in a building with a cardboard sign written in child-script that says “keep out”.

      • Susan, afraid I can’t help you put out the flames, mine are on fire too. I think we will need a whole brigade to put out the fire. Peace and Love,

      • The bible says, We are all loved by God. We are all unworthy.

        Atheists say (‘there is no God’), agnostics say (‘nothing can be known about God’) & non-Christians say (‘Jesus is not God’).

        There is no Relationship w/ God if we say, ‘No.’

        –that’s not to say that one cannot change course. (If I changed, anyone can.)

        I think that any ‘Church’ that they would start would not belong to Jesus Christ. It actually would be a ‘Country Club’, or a ‘Community Center’. btw, there is nothing wrong with a ‘country club’ or a ‘community center’, they serve a good purpose. The more the better.

        The invitation to Eternal Life with Him, that Jesus offers, is open to all tax payers, prostitutes, liars, idolaters, thieves, sexually immoral, violent criminals & ‘good’ people who accept it.

        The Holy Spirit woos all who have an ear. For those that have been won over by His Love (& the love of His followers) each person comes to Jesus in their own unique way. It always includes dying to Self, brokenness & humility.

        It’s Jesus’ strongest desire (& all believers’ desire) that atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, & ‘good’ people would have a change of heart, and switch from their Self-allegiance to Jesus.

        • And what do you play in this Leslie? Nowhere, somewhere? You don’t know? What is spoken to your heart about role He’d like you to have? And please, don’t just throw scripture at me as an answer.

  7. John – Your posts speak to my heart and it is wonderful to hear that many groups – like ours – are trying to build more inclusive and loving places to serve and worship the Lord. Thank you!

  8. ugh. the catholic church opposes the donation of condoms in africa. how many more africans do you think have died or will die of aids because of pointy hat dipshits? save the church???????? if only those 4 horsemen would trample the church right to death. all churchs, all denominations, all fake faiths

    • You’re more than welcome to encourage their immoral behavior and donate as many condoms as you like. The Catholic Church cannot endorse the immorality of use of contraceptives or immoral sexual behavior.

      If and when the other churches collapse, the Catholic Church will remain standing. It will be there until the end, as promised by Jesus to Peter.

      Storefront churches, regardless of their good intentions, will not thrive because they have no solid foundation and will always embrace errors. And the type that is being praised here will not lead anyone away from their slavery to their sins, but will instead encourage it.

      The guys with the “pointy hats” have it right.

      • “Joe Catholic,” clearly you have no concept of the hypocrisy of the church you defend or your own. I find that to be sad.

        That you somehow think you or your church has standing to speak of the immorality of anyone is stunning. Humility, thy name is not “Joe Catholic” or The Catholic Church” that much is certain.

        Whether you admit it or not The Catholic Church does “endorse” the immorality of allowing pain and suffering when they forbid use of contraceptives or “immoral” sexual behavior. Worse, you and they do so even as many, many Catholics do both. Does your faith teach anything about hypocrisy. I think it mocks the Lord. As does your solid allegiance to the Church as opposed to God.

        • Allegiance to the Church God gave us is allegiance to God.

          And yes I know that some Catholics are sinners and some go against doctrine when they know better. They will have to answer for that.

  9. If you aren’t already familiar with the Agape Spiritual Center in Culver City CA, I encourage you to live stream one of Reverend Michael’s services. perhaps his message of unconditional love will resonate and you will recognize a kindered spirit. I thank you for your insight and sensibilities about and around how we can be more authentic and compassionate spiritual beings and strive to walk the walk hopefully leaving the world a better place by our having been here.

  10. Thank you John. And yes, let’s rebuild.

    I must say also, because of my own faith experience, I need Jesus at the helm. As Master Architect, Foreman, and Crew Boss.

    The rot we’re in has to go. The doors are swollen shut with arrogance and self-righteousness. There seems to be no room for the struggling, seeking, and the not-so-sure.

    I’d relay something my pastor says at each and every sermon to all who will hear but I guess I don’t want to “out” him, if you will. But it is an invitation, no matter where one is at in life or on their faith walk, they are welcome and valued. And together we’ll find answers. I 💕 my Methodist church.

  11. Puzzled why pastor John says he would not ‘start a church’ because Denominational churches would be too ‘restrictive’ for his message.

    [My pastor didn’t go to Seminary, is unaffiliated with any Denomination, & he’s free to preach anything he wants, as are thousands of other preachers in US.]

    Pastor John’s church is ‘Non-denominational’, so he already teaches ‘un-restricted’ by any denomination .

      • I would have said passive-aggressive, myself.

        I too was startled by the “restrictive” concept of denominations because, on the whole, my experience of non-denominational people is that they are too loosey-goosey without an authority structure.

        Then I thought, well, Gloriamarie, we are all part of the Body of Christ and we all serve as we are called and clearly, Church History teaches that all sorts of approaches and understandings of Jesus abound in this world and people are comfortable in different places.

        John might find my Episcopal Church too restrictive but I love TEC. John blesses me with what he writes and I hope my comments bless those who choose to be blessed by them because we are all part of the Body of Christ.

  12. I so hope this is true. I do see it in my own family. My grandson, a gentle, kind soul, brought up in the church, He tells me he is an agnostic, he is willing to be convinced, he sees his family and he believes there is something. He believes with all his heart in Jesus’s teachings and is using his psychology degree to help the least, the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the prisoner. Why, because he says that is the right thing to do. He tells me he doesn’t need a lot of money, just be comfortable, and that everyone should have that opportunity. So if there are more of him out there, instead of the bigots, I will be encouraged. Thank you for the glimmer of hope. Peace and Love,

    • I would join the Church of Not Being Horrible. I would be interested to see if it could really work. Can people really quell their instinct to protect their own by lashing out? Can people come together in mutual respect and maintain that respect over time? Can people really experience other people as they are instead of who they project them to be?

  13. If I lived in Wake Forest I would definitely come to your “church” for the community; and, I’m a panentheist who loves the writings of Fa. Matthew Fox. He was formerly a Catholic priest who was forced to leave and is now an Episcopalian.
    The most influential of his writings for me was and remains The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. I recommend it and his other writings.

  14. This is a lovely thought. I, an atheist, try (and routinely fail) to live my life by the 2nd Greatest Commandment (the 1st is right out, of course). I’d love to see the modern Church also try to live by that 2nd one. And I’d be more than willing to walk alongside the believers in your new, improved Church.

    Sure, we’d part ways on the whole God bit. But, really, would that matter all that much to the folks whose lives we made just a little bit better along the way?

    • That “God bit” is no small matter…

      Also, if you give wine to the alcoholic, you’re not doing him any favors, no matter how much it feels that you’re being generous or how much he might love you for it. You’re not making his live “a little bit better.”

      • Joe C,

        That “God bit” is no small matter…

        To you, perhaps. To me, it’s completely irrelevant. I do not need to subscribe to your mythology to recognize that the 2nd commandment is a terrific philosophy.

        Also, if you give wine to the alcoholic, you’re not doing him any favors…

        So feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, serving the least of these among us… That’s the same as giving an alcoholic more alcohol. Interesting idea of social justice there.

        I truly believe that a good fraction of our neighbors were born without an empathy gene.

          • Do you really think that’s what I meant?

            I have no idea what you meant. I wrote what I meant. That your (or anyone’s) belief in a god or gods matters not a whit to me. As long as said belief leads them to treat other people better, that’s good. Good for the “other.” For the believer, believing in imaginary beings may be pathological, but I’ll take what I can get.

            If, OTOH, their belief in god(s) leads them to treat people like things, like animals, like “abominations,” then it’s evil.

            The Christian Church in the US has for many, many years treated the queer community like things, like animals, like “abominations.” And these so-called Christians act as if there is nothing to be ashamed about their behavior.

            As i’ve written now several times, I don’t care what you believe. I care what you do. Do as your savior commanded (“Love your neighbor as yourself.”) and we can work together. Continue to treat my friends the way you (pl.) have, and I won’t ignore it. Instead, I will continue to work to see that the conservative, hateful so-called Christianity is seen as distatesful as is racism or neo-Nazism.

            Your (pl.) choice, Joe C.

            • Daryl Cobranchi, I welcome your voice here. I welcome that you tell us what you see and don’t see in Christian behavior.

              You wrote “I don’t care what you believe. I care what you do. ”

              I agree with you. Our actions speak much more loudly than our words. When our actions contradict our words we are not only hypocrites but abusers.

    • But what if, in reality, the 1st part is the very essence of the 2nd part? If that is true, there would be no need to reject either because they are in reality ONE.

      • But what if, in reality, the 1st part is the very essence of the 2nd part? If that is true, there would be no need to reject either because they are in reality ONE.

        That’s probably a bridge too far for me. But I get your point. To love your neighbor as yourself IS to “love the Lord your God with all your heart…”

        • I shall wax philosophical:
          But what if, in reality, the 2nd part is the very essence of the 1st part?

          If we are made in God’s image, then isn’t the 2nd commandment the essence of the 1st? Something to ponder.

  15. Turning the stuff that needs to be said into the stuff that needs to be done, with one heart, a shared vision of inclusivity, and of stewardship of the earth and everyone on it.
    Lofty.
    I like it.

  16. Dear John Pavlovitz:

    There’s much to be said for this.

    Feeling no need to rehash the tired question of whether there are any honest agnostics/atheists, I’m comfortable affirming that many who classify themselves as such do so because they reject what God’s self-designated representative/ambassadors have become.

    The texts you cite in connection with your contention are the ones I would cite and for the same reasons.

    In my opinion, our language of Christian conversion/initiation hasn’t helped us. Jo 1:12 notwithstanding, I think it is more accurate to speak not of our accepting/receiving God as it is of God’s accepting us [Ep 1:6].

    The Evangelists say such things as ‘come and see’ and ‘go and do likewise’ and ‘go and tell’ and ‘come, follow’ and many other expressions. Time and again, we see that those actions lead us to see kingdom — which is the heart of Jesus’ proclamation.

    In addition to the texts you reference, I think John 9 is also helpful. If you acknowledged your blindness, then I would heal you … but since you insist that you see, your sin clings to you.

    Increasingly, it is my conviction that the confessing ‘church’ has forgotten/abandoned any sense of the meaning of the incarnation. Lip service is paid to this as a point of confessional orthodoxy; but Jesus’ incarnation is in the first place a solicitation to ‘come and see,’ to ‘go and wash’ to ‘take up your mat and walk,’ and these acts initiate us into a life where kingdom becomes incarnate in Christ.

    Michael Card’s song about the basin and the towel offer a far more Biblical perspective on church and kingdom than many ‘American’ ‘Christians’ who find more compelling the imagery of an unmanned drone and an M24 sniper rifle.

    So what exactly does it mean to ‘enter’ the kingdom
    And who is doing so?

    Blessings!

    • I always end up seeing these posts months later, when John links them on Facebook. So, my comments are always late. Yet, I put this out there. I am an atheist. I did not become an atheist through rejection of what the Christian church had become. I became an atheist because I question everything. It is my nature.

      And because I am an atheist in a country where atheists are looked upon with suspicion, let me say that I probably am like most people commenting on this site. I care about others and am distressed about the divisions in our country and the cruelty exhibited by far too many.

  17. Absolutely you should found a church.

    A gathering of people coming together for mutual support, encouragement and strength for the journey.

    You have something here Jon that the world sorely needs.

    You don’t need a denominational affiliation.

    Or you could start a new denomination! I’d join you!!!

    How about the “Authentic Church of Redemption”. Or the “Church for Everybody Else”

    Hmmm… if people react badly to the word church, perhaps we can reclaim it? Or use a synonym like Assembly or…

    HOUSE. that seemed to come “out of nowhere” (translation–directly from the Spirit herself)

    House of Redemption?
    House of Authentic Redemption?
    House of the Lost and Found?

    I am 100% serious by the way. I can’t leave my denomination but considering starting an evening service based on similar principles.

    Give this idea the right name and you can help it spread.

    Email me if this sounds interesting to you…

    • i apologize for misspelling your name–I was just so excited about the idea I didn’t proofread as I usually do!!!

    • Maybe the name “Church of the Misfits” or “Horrible Anonymous” may fit. I like “Horrible Anonymous” better because that name doesn’t have have charged word “Church” in it, making it more attractive to Atheists and Agnostics who really don’t want to go to anything named “Church”.

  18. It’s possible to build true community on-line. I’ve been doing bible study for 3 years now on-line with the same group of folks via Zoom software. We are all FB friends and up in each other’s business al week. Or there is Kimberley Knight’s Thin Places, also a place of community. There is a craving for ritual and real, a hunger for that which transcends, to connect and be part something bigger than ourselves. It’s a brand new world. If you build it…

    • I have a friend who is an ordained minister who, for a period of time, was also a pastor for an online Church of Harry Potter. I found the concept fascinating, the blending of wisdoms and the support and encouragement given to those who ordinarily wouldn’t have darkened the door of a church.

  19. Beautiful words John. Thank you. You speak to what is in my heart. There are many beautiful religions out there that do speak to love and acceptance. But some of their actions belie their words. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if beliefs and actions worked in concert. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the voices of churches who actually preach harm to others would be drowned out by the ones that honestly believe and show in their actions goodness and love to all makes us stronger.

  20. John, I think you would find reading the writings of the Franciscan, Richard Rohr, very much aligned with your thinking. You can find him at http://www.cac.org. The Franciscan approach is to live on “the edge of the inside”, so as to not be condemned by the church, and yet an alternative orthodoxy. Enjoy! —

    • Jeffrey, that is easy to say, but I see American Christianity taking the attitude that “you are with us or against us”. Sometimes a dangerously moldy structure that some people are attached to may need to be torn down to the ground and rebuilt anew instead of a slow renovation that continues to poison the people, a least that is my POV.

      • Robin, while it is true that Americanized Christianity has the attitude that “you are with us or against us,” it is not true of all Christians in the USA.

        Fr. Rohr is one of those for whom this is untrue.

  21. This has been my experience. I have been writing Living with Open Hands https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/ for 11 years through the Dark Night of My Soul and then some. I am surprised that I have had 55,000 hits from 162 countries over the years. About four years ago, I was approached by a friend that happened to be an atheist that also organizes weekly Sunday meetings for atheists, agnostics, and humanists. Based on what i wrote in my blog she asked that I come speak to them about what it means to create a meaningful life using my gifts-based approach. I had been careful to use a human language in my writing that would not exclude anyone as so much of religious language does. That was a real turning point in my life resulting in friendships that have lasted and a group to return to and be accepted as I am.

  22. John, I am more convinced than ever the “christian” church is lurching toward oblivion.
    That is why I keep saying that hanging on to that identification as the way to the good life is a non starter.
    Totally dump the “christian” tag and connect with truth, spirituality and compassion.
    Let the dogma of “christianity” die a natural death and move on. You will a better minister and the weight that you are caring will slip away. There is nothing worse than hauling a stinking dead body around and looking at it wishing it would live again. This dead body is dead and it ain’t coming back.

  23. I am an atheist, ( after many years of study of comparative religion, which I need not detail at this point) and I do follow your writings. I also share them with some of my most obnoxious “evangelical” friends and acquaintances (as well as everyone else I know). However, I do not think that a belief in either a “savior” or a “god” is required to live a moral and just life. I have no problem with anyone’s belief in a particular religion- and I find your writings to be some of the most rational that are published in the “Christian” arena today- but I do object to the idea that any one group of people, whether followers of a particular religion or not, has the “only” true way or knowledge, or that they need to force it on those who do not share that religious belief. And that, I think, is the crux of what we are facing in the “religious wars”. We still seem to be in a “my god is better than your god” state that has perpetuated since the dawn of time. I do agree with the attitude of many of the Founding Fathers of this country that one’s relationship with one’s god is a personal issue. Why do so many feel the need to try to convert others, rather than simply trusting in their own understanding and relationship as being sufficient to guide their actions, rather than trying to force them on others?

    • I can answer that question for you Patti. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are dedicated to the belief that God exists and that he is both insane and the worst A-Hole who ever lived. About 32 A.D., on a truly rare Thursday, God found within himself a microscopic fraction of goodness and implemented a means for some people to be saved from his otherwise constantly unloving and wrathful nature. That quickly ended. God went back to being both fully insane and the worst A-Hole who ever lived. Someday soon He is going to come back to Earth and show every human still alive on the Earth just what a thoroughly insane and wrathful A-Hole He really is.

      Sounds inviting—huh?

        • Well, they might have a few Skittles and M&M’s pocks attached to it—-but when you read between their fundie lines and boil it all down—that is the central message they are offering to the world. I have watched their behavior for decades. They might say they love God—but in reality—they are scared to death of him—because deep down inside—in that little corner of themselves they never visit (because it is just too frightening), they really do believe God is insane and the worst A-Hole who ever lived. If God is really like that—Heaven would be something only a little bit less than Hell—because everything said and done there would commensurate with insanity and the worst A-Hole who ever lived.

          I choose to think God is like Jesus—who was not insane and not the worst A-hole who ever lived.

      • The Black Sabbath song “Iron Man” came into my head describing the a-hole, savage, murderous, bullying, and authoritarian god that demands immediate obedience to the church, then punishes them anyway, that some people seem to worship.

        I have heard it said that we make G-d into our own image to have a sliver of understand of him. If that is the case I would rather have a G-d that is loving because if the alternative is true then what is the point? Being a plaything of an a-hole god is not something I want to be.

  24. Dear John: thanks for this column. The United Church of Christ is a denomination that ask you to be your authentic self, because that is the self God called to ministry. We are a small denomination – and part of the membership lost was over our General Synod’s 2005 support for same gender marriage, the 1971 ordination of first out gay pastor, ordination of the first woman in 1851, first African American in the 1700’s. The denomination is Open and Affirming of glbtqi folks for membership and service at all levels. Each local church gets the opportunity to go through its process of becoming open and affirming – and an every day growing percentage of local churches have done that. It is a denomination with no ‘enforcing’ hierarchy, so there are some local churches who haven’t yet begun to work on their prejudice or bigotry about race or gender or gender identity or sexuality or economic divisions – but many, many , many others have – It is not a perfect church. It is a church seeking to be faithful to God and we see God as revealed in Jesus. I believe you would feel at home in many congregations. And that many more would love for you to be their pastor. The UCC is not the only denomination where inclusion, racial and economic justice are being worked on. I hope you will investigate those churches who are striving for faithfulness, justice and inclusion, and align yourself with the one nearest your theological and liturgical self. The Church needs your witness and passion. I love your blog and your prophetic voice. thanks for reading. Steve Wayles (retired) (feel free to keep this for yourself – I don’t intend to use your blog to sell my denomination)

  25. If you decide to create a community, congregation, call it what you will, please center it in the Triangle, not too far from Durham and Chapel Hill. There are a lot of us there who fit your calling. I think Durham is the most progressive city in the state, followed in close second by Chapel Hill/Carrboro.

      • John P, I do not live in NC but I would happily support a church you found. Please make sure you can do either live-streaming or podcasts to expand the physical reach. Yours is a voice I feel has been touched by God for the purpose of leading us back to what following Christ means.

        If you do subscriptions you could guarantee an income for the effort. Please do consider it. I think it could blossom into an important place of worship, fellowship, and community all over the nation. You can do this.

  26. John Pavlovitz said:

    “Now, just as then, the religious people commandeering the name of God have become the very thing Jesus warned the world against. They’ve become infected with hypocrisy, greed, and contempt—and they are the preventing people from seeing anything resembling the abundant life he preached about. Just as when his feet were on the planet, Jesus is telling us that God has outgrown the box we’ve tried to build for God, and we’d better be open to a new thing. ”

    This was not the first time the followers of God tried to build a box for him. If you will recall, the ancient Jews who built the first great temple did so to put God in a box. God objected and said that he did not want or need a box—but gnaw—the Jews had to have a temple to put their God in just like all the Jose Pagan cultures living in the nations around them—and this brings me to my next point.

    People are frightened by an all-powerful, free-wheeling Spirit of a God who does his own things his own way—and does not have to ask permission from anyone. God is his own boss—and he likes it that way. I think boxing God in, whether it be a temple or a church building, is an attempt to confine God, and with him confined, an attempt to learn more about him for the purposes of controlling him. People think they can corral God and find ways to get him to do their bidding. It is kind of like:

    “See God. We have built this huge Gothic cathedral for you. Look at how ornate , beautiful, and detailed it is. This is all for you!!! There is no house more beautiful in all the Earth—and it is all yours. Come on in and sit awhile, take your shoes off, relax, feel comfortable and at home. Great living here—right? Well, now that you have this deluxe new home—which WE BUILT FOR YOU—some of the friars put together a list of things that we would like for you to…….” See what I mean?

    One of the Southern Baptist preachers I most dislike in all the world is Charles Stanley down in Atlanta. I have sat and listened to many of his sermons. One of the things that most disappoints me with his preaching is this subcurrent notion that we should all get to know God better because when we know all about him, then we will know the proper human moves to make on him to get him to cough up a blessing for us. One morning I was watching and listening to one of his sermons along this line, and right in the middle of the sermon, I began spontaneously visualizing God as a Coca-Cola vending machine. And if I can learn as much as I can about this Coca-Cola Machine named God, then I will know just the right place on the machine to kick hard with my foot in order to get a free can of Coca-Cola. I think this is disgusting. It is yet another attempt to box in God so people can find a way to control him and get him to give us what we need or want.

    Whatever happened to: God already knows the things you want or need even before you ask and will gladly give you those things because he loves you?

    I just very much disagree with the notion of boxing in God and the foolish notion—and it is foolish—that men and women can somehow control God if they can find ways to learn more about him for the purpose of boxing him in.

    I love the idea of the rampant, free-roaming, unbridled, loving God that does as He pleases—because if He really is loving—the things He does will always be the good and right things. Somehow—people have such a hard time trusting in the good character of God to be loving and do good things—and yes—I too often fail to trust in that myself—but I should trust in it more.

    • P.S. I am still waiting for Charles Stanley to fully identify this being he frequently talks about in his sermons. His name is “Gyod.” If anyone here knows who “Gyod” is, please write in and let me know about him.

    • Progressives put God in their progressive/permissive box: “Of course a loving God would want Jane to do xyz because that’s how we see God (and want him to be).”

        • Yes I put God in the “hateful box” of the Catholic Church.

          Or I should say He put himself there.

          Though of course he is not confined by it.

            • John, I saw your response to another blogger concerning the gender of God, and thought I’d give a point or two. First, in His essence, God is a Spirit, and in that respect God is neither male nor female.

              However, there can be no doubt that whenever the writers referred to God, “HE” was generally spoken of and about, in the masculine voice.

              There is no question that when God wanted to reveal Himself to mankind, HE did so as a HE, as a MALE, and as a MAN!

              Thanks!

              Laralynn

              • I don’t think you were present then. I’m okay with my perspective.

                We’re not talking about Jesus. We’re talking about the nature of God. It’s male and female. Sorry, that’s just how it is.

                P.S. Maybe, the fact that the Bible was written down in a time when women were essentially marital property, is why God is associated with a masculine identity.

                • John, Jesus represents the “nature of God”. Didn’t you know that? He was fully God and fully man. I find your answer very peculiar.

                  Thanks Again,

                  Laralynn

                  • You’re talking about Jesus. You’re not explaining how the God of the Creation story could create man and woman “in God’s image” without transcending gender, and how that puts a crimp in you. You’re trapped in describing God as explicitly male in your above comment. You’re choosing to pretend you don’t understand the question. I get it. That way you can double talk around the problem you have. Carry on.

              • Which proves NOT a thing, Laralyn.

                “Let us make humanity in our image. Male and female, God created them.”

                God is clearly both feminine and masculine.

                Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s Spirit is constantly referred to by a feminine noun. If you knew Hebrew as well as you claim, you would already know this.

                Additionally, the Hebrew Scriptures contain several references to the feminity of God.

                However, Bill Carey may be reading this and that man knows his Biblical languages.

              • In our language, and many others, in a case of a gender that is simply unknown, we use the masculine pronouns. The use of “they” rather than “his” for unknown gender is relatively recent. Therefore writing about G-d as a man does not prove that he is a male.

            • I use “he” because that’s how He referred to himself through the sacred writers. Of course being an infinite God he transcends gender.

              • The use of a masculine pronoun doesn’t mean he is male, it just proves that God’s gender is not known to be exclusively female. When the gender is unknown our language uses masculine pronouns.

                • I didn’t say God is a “male.” He’s not. He’s not a female either. We use “he” because God chose to have us identify him as such, as God the Father.

    • Hi Charles. Who said it had to be in a “church-like” permanent building? If this is a “church” it will be the people that make the “church”, not the building, so it can be anywhere. A conference room in a library, a store front, different people’s homes, whereever that will fit the people coming. Maybe make it a point of have it in different places, empathizing that G-d cannot boxed into a building or anything man-made.

  27. I have felt our society/culture longing for such a community for as long as I can remember. Evangelicals framed it as various flavors of waiting for the Second Coming. I think that part of what we see in many American churches is bitterness that Christ has not yet returned and taken them to Heaven already. They are weary of dodging the potholes in their local roads and want those streets of gold that never need patched or repaved or, most importantly, paid for, ever again. The grass won’t mowing, the laundry won’t need washed……. Heaven is a fantasy-land where every fine thing believers were ever denied is theirs and free. They seem to think elaborate feasts will magically appear on the table, if indeed there is any desire to eat or do anything except sing Hallelujah, over and over for all Eternity. Frankly, such a place sounds like Hell to me, but that’s just my take on it (with a possible nod to a forgotten 1960’s sci-fi plot line).

    Over and over, Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Today, scholars still debate what He meant. And we have built church after church, because denominations and congregations get caught up in the same dogma and legalism that plagued the Temple when Jesus walked the streets and byways of Judea. It is not churches and organizations that we must build, it is our neighborhoods and communities. It is not a list of rules and doctrines that we are called to lift up, it is each other. We are not called to theology; we are called to love(as a verb), by Love. When we try to make it more complicated or organized than that, we’re probably screwing it up.

    • You saw that Twilight Zone episode too, huh? The one where the criminal punk dies and goes to Heaven—-a place where his every want and need is met—and it turns out to be Hell because he can never lose at roulette, poker, dames, or whatever else—thus taking all the fun out of it. Then Sebastian Cabot says: “This is the other place—and lets out a blood-curdling laugh.

      Just remember this Leslie.

  28. I, too, find your post hopeful – a wonderful idea. So many of us are seeking community to help good in the world to grow. I’m a couple of hours from Raleigh, but would try to get there when I could. You’re a bright light in the darkness of late – thanks so much for that.

  29. ” We are not called to theology; we are called to love(as a verb)”

    How about BOTH?

    One doesn’t preclude the other. Sound dogma and doctrine has been given to the Church through the Apostles and their successors. Christ didn’t leave us orphans and didn’t leave us to guess about things he made “clear” through the scriptures and through the teaching authority of the Church which he founded on Peter.

  30. THIS. I LOVE THIS.

    I am surrounded by closeted apostates in the Bible Belt, and we are all looking for: number one, community; number two, a way to organize and continue to love on people and care for them right where they are through community AND community service without the pressure of saving one’s soul. John, I’d be at your church in a heartbeat. As an atheist. Serving right alongside the not-horrible Christians.

    By the way, John…how are you not an atheist yet? In all seriousness. My journey from a devout Southern Baptist Christian faith sounds quite similar to the one you are currently taking. The dinky campfire of doubt barely burning through my 30’s was suddenly raging a few years ago – fueled by the hatred that Christians poured onto the LBGTQ community. My desire to deepen my faith ended it. The venom from the community of horrible Christians kicked off my desire to dive into the scriptures, but my extensive studies unraveled my belief. Just curious – what keeps you hanging on?

    I love your blog, and share it with passion, with my Christian and Atheist friends, alike. Thank you for being such a powerful voice. You are sincerely appreciated.

  31. I have read this blog over and over and can’t seem to grasp it’s meaning. Are you saying anything goes, doesn’t matter what you believe or who you are as long as you are accepting of each other and loving towards everyone? Together this group of people will worship who? Does keeping God in a box mean don’t confine what the Bible says as to limited, that new truth is available that frees you to be exactly who you are without repentence? The reason the world hates the gospel is conviction of sin. John3:3- In reply Jesus declared I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

    • I had no difficulty following Jon’s point. I don’t believe he’s arguing against the Gospel. He’s wondering why so many who proclaim the Gospel loudly and fervently in church or on social media fail to follow through in their daily lives — and why so many who openly do NOT believe in the Gospel better exhibit those values that Jesus called upon His followers to exhibit. Interesting disconnect, no?

      If (generic) you are “friends” with someone, shouldn’t there be more common ground between you than “He’ll send me to Hell if I don’t stay friends with him”? Shouldn’t there be shared goals and values? You don’t have to get there on the same exact streets, but you DO have to at least make an attempt to get there. And the destination is clear: love your neighbor as you love yourself. Jesus said it Himself.

      Jimmy Carter once said, “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values, because you don’t.” How can anyone who calls themself a Christian support a legislative regime that wants to just cut loose 25-30 million people from necessary medical care and wants to snip huge holes in the safety net so they can buy more weapons and enrich the 1%? Yet denominations full of Horrible Christians do just that, while looking down on — and excluding — those who have not professed that same love for Jesus.
      The Gospel is far more than a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. The price, as Jesus states, is your life. Giving one’s tongue to the public proclamation of Jesus as one’s Savior but holding back the heart and the working muscles — that’s cheating Jesus of what He asks for. What kind of friends does Jesus have then?

    • anonymous again. yes, that is what Progressives are saying. ‘As long as you are loving and accepting of what Man deems righteous’. [Don’t they know that it is impossible to follow the Law, and they are setting themselves up for failure?]

      The Good News is we do have a Leader, Jesus Christ, we do have a trusted Manual, The Bible, and we do have a loving Family in Christ Jesus. It’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel (sorry, Phyllis Tickle.)

      • If it is impossible to follow the law, why are all you fundies trying so hard to do it—and insisting that everyone else must do it to? You guys are all about the law—and following it.

        Fundie: I think gay people should be killed.

        Bystander: Why?

        Fundie: Because it’s Gawd’s law.

        Get out of here Leslie. You’re doubling back on yourself and liable to break your back doing it.

        • Charles, I have often said that if anyone truly followed all the rules in the Bible, they would be in jail within a week.

        • Charles, I think fundies fixate on the Law because it gives them a reason to ignore what Jesus says in Matt 22: 37-41 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          We have no need of the Law as followers of Jesus. Only Christianistas would impose the Law upon others.

  32. I was a strong believer in the Triune God for decades. I’m now an atheist, so no church would suit me. My husband is now agnostic b/c he has never met a Christian who acts like Jesus. That whole supernatural malarkey is why so many Christians deconvert.

    • Shelia, you were never really a true Believer, because if you were, you’d still be a true Believer! The word is called “Apostasy”.

      • Right Jamey. “If a sincere woman repented sincerely of her sins, accepted Jesus, and really meant it—and then the next year she has an affair with Hercule Poirot—then that means she was never really saved to begin with.”

        I have heard this fundie nonsense for years, and it is mostly spoken by fundies who thump their Bibles at people rather than read them and study them.

        However:

        Jamey: Apostle Paul talking about Himself in Romans 7:

        We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

        21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

        So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin.

        Jamey: What do you do with I John 1:8 where John is speaking to authentic Christians about authentic Christians:

        “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

        The Point:

        Even after we become authentic Christians, we still sin willfully, unwillfully, and inadvertently. We do it all the time because our sinful nature is still in us along with Jesus. They fight with each other. Sometimes they do not. Sometimes Jesus wins for a moment, day, or season and sometimes our bad side wins for a moment, day, or season. Regardless, the grace of Jesus covers us all—and you have to let go to the grace. The harder you try to do right in your own mind and strength, the more you will fail and the more you will sin. Happens all the time. If you let go to the grace and the love of Jesus, you will still sin, but you will notice odd changes for the better occurring over time throughout your life. You will never ARRIVE in this life. Different people progress at different rates and some progress very slowly—and often almost imperceptibly—but they still progress in ways you might not easily see. As Martin Luther said, in this life we are all only a work in progress…

        [Now I know you fundies well because I have spent a big part of my life observing you and studying you. Do you know why you fundies so easily avoid these scriptures? It is part of the brainwashing process. As the fundie goes along under the thumb of the brainwashing process that starts in babydom, most fundie brains seek psychological shelter from the constant finger-pointing of the Old Testament law by psychologically blinding themselves to their own sins. This is how you and so many other fundies learning how to pretend (or at least behave) as if you have no sins—while everyone else in the world does—and it is why you are so good at pointing out the sins of other people—because you have learned not to see your own sins. Most fundies are really good at this. Do you know which fundies are not really good at blinding themselves Jamey? It is the fundies who have mental health problems—particularly the ones who suffer from clinical depression. They do not have the ability to ignore their own sins because of their brain states. They see every sin they have ever committed and are constantly aware of all their sins from one second to the next—all day long—every day that goes by. They are the only really honest fundies I have ever meant because they still have the ability to be honest with themselves. But they are that way simply because they are sick with a disease that does not allow them to blind themselves to their sins. This is why they do so much better in nonfundie churches—because they learn that we all sin and that their only hope is to let go to the grace of Jesus—quit holding the rope so tight—and just let go and fall into the arms of Jesus.]

        Jamey: And if you are Baptist (which most fundies are), you have to deal with the long-time Baptist doctrine called “THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER.” Basically, what that means is that if you seriously accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior in a very serious moment where you really were serious—and then you lapse for the rest of your life 30 minutes after you are saved—you are still forever saved because after that one sincere second when you accepted Jesus—no one and no thing in this universe or any of the other 32 parallel universes can ever “snatch your soul out of the saving hand of Jesus.” As the Baptists say: “Done once —done forever.” I know. I was a Southern Baptist for a while.

        So Jamey—You can take your “not really saved to begin with” and go stick it where the sun does not shine because that is God’s decision to make—and NOT YOURS!!!

        Read your Bible more. Thump it less.

        • Charles:

          You are so off base in your response that it is laughable. What Shelia wrote and what you responded to, have nothing in common due to your illiteracy of the Bible and the lack of spiritual discernment and comprehension. Shelia says that she is an atheist, which means that she doesn’t believe in God, supposedly after having believed in Him. You then take me to Romans 7 where Paul speaks about the struggle of indwelling sin in an attempt to equate Paul’s situation with Shelia’s. Are you kidding me? Shelia rejects God altogether, renounce her once held faith, and the great theologian and scholar, Paul speaks honestly about his inward struggles, and you make them both the same????? May I ask you who in the hell is your Pastor? Oh, I forgot, John is your Pastor!!! Please change Pastor as quickly as possible!!! So let me give insight so that you will gain some knowledge cause you’re messed up my man.
          True Christians………..

          1. Will endure to the very end.
          2. Are sealed by the Holy Spirit until the day of redemption.
          3. Are kept by the power of God through Faith says the apostle Peter
          4. Are in the hands of God the Father and God the Son, and no one will be able to pluck them out says Jesus.
          5. Were called by God to eternal salvation even before the very foundation of the world was ever laid.
          6. We were “Chosen in Him”, therefore, we will forever be in Him.

          Here is an example of what apostasy looks like.

          “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)

          Everything you’ve written is stupid and is no rebuttal to what I’ve written, so please go somewhere and do as you suggested that I do, get your head out of your butt and stop smelling yourself.

          • You fundies are the apostates Jamey. Everyone outside of Fundieland knows it too—including the still faithful Christians who have left your fundie churches because they clearly recognized that fact. Come on over to my blog and read all about it:

            https://faith17983.wordpress.com/

            Your fundie churches are dying out, and it is not because iniquity abounds. They are dying out because Jesus hates your collective sinful pride, arrogance, and ice-cold hearts and has walked out on you because of them.

  33. The Church is the Body of True Believers in Jesus Christ. NOTHING Else
    God is the Author and Finisher of Faith and NO ONE Else
    So as the the statements listed above
    ONLY God can SAVE the Soul for eternity
    NOT the church
    the Church of the world today is a Group of people mankind who get together to make each other feel good,
    have a bond of friendship,
    have a purpose to do something they believe in.
    Clubs, Camps, Groups same thing.
    Mans way or God s Way ,
    YOU be the Judge , after all you have to pay the price for your own rebellion and if you leave out God , YOU are the only one who suffers .
    Don’t Be DECEIVED or Led astray by mankind.
    Seek 1st the Kingdom of God and His True Believers are YOUR Church.
    Friendship with the World is Enmity to God, Totally different ways of thinking.

      • I’m still trying to figure out whether he’s a stroke victim—like that guy at my mom’s nursing home back in 1993. He was in a wheelchair. The lower-level noncerebral functions that kept him breathing, his heart beating, etc. were all still going good but his cerebrum was all gone—fully wiped out and destroyed except for a mental vision of a few men working on a roof and the words “Git, Git, Git a box of nails up on that roof.” He sat in that wheel chair all day long with nothin left in his head but that vision and repeating those words 24 hours per day—-probably even did it in his sleep.

        I visualize Christopher as a person who had a stroke too. The only thing left in his cerebrum is the ability to do keystrokes and he has his own box of nails that contains several hundred broken and disjointed fundie phrases of attitude and platitude—and he just strings them to together mindlessly across the day and posts them on this blog.

        Gloriamarie thinks I am making fun of Christopher—and maybe I am a little—but I am also more than a little fascinated with what Christopher is doing on this blog—and why—and whether he realizes that he is “reaching no one” with his disjointed and hard to follow messages where the last one sounds little different than the one before. Is it wrong in this world to be fascinated by oddities?

        I have asked Christopher to respond, explain his condition, and give me some understanding of what he is doing and why—but he never answers. I suspect it is because he has an inability to answer. The nurses at the nursing home pick him up out of bed in the morning, set him down in front of the computer, and he just sits there and doddles, dithers, and doodles all day with fragments of scripture and that box full of old fundie attitudes and platitudes.

        Yeah. I have a big fantasy life. If a person cannot explain to me what in the heck they are doing, I look at my observed facts and build my own optional explanations around those facts that I am observing—guess its the social scientist in me.

  34. YES – I am one of those…. in the fold – out of the “church” – a disciple without any need or perhaps even ability to believe: “He rose from the dead – He was the Son of God” etc…. just a disciple because it is the way I am by nature…. drawn to like-minded people and leaders…. and totally turned off by the hypocrisy, arrogance – and marketing mentality of most of those who remain in the official churches….

  35. Pastor, I’m a fan and follower of your blog who happens to be an atheist. While I may not subscribe to your metaphysics & occasionally poke fun, at the end of the day, I feel a great deal of resonance with you (and some of your blog followers) when it comes to your humble, unconditional love and care for fellow human beings regardless of their age, gender, race, sexual orientation, creed, ethnicity, religion or lack thereof (except for conservative Christians – hahaha!). Furthermore, as a member of one of the most annoying and deeply reviled demographics on the planet (I’m an atheist AND (gulp) a vegetarian), I deeply appreciate and respect how you and some of your other followers vociferously defend marginalized and disenfranchised people.

    At its core, your religion seems to be about love, humility, and compassion, and in that sense, despite my utter lack of supernatural belief, I would feel proud to be a member of it.

    Thank you.

    Enough gushy stuff… the big bang happened, evolution is real, human parthenogenesis has never occurred, and people can’t walk on liquid water

    😉

  36. I enjoyed your message at Wild Goose, John. It was fun to put a voice to your blogs. Do you know or did you get a chance to hear Bart Campolo? I think you two would enjoy talking together.

    • Thanks so much, Susan! Bart and I never connected but we have spoken via email briefly. His dad changed the game for me many years ago, and I got to know his mom really well during a conference where I received an award in her name. Quiet a family!

  37. Been thinking a lot about this idea that John P might found a new church and I have to say, please, don’t.

    I know that I have been one of loudest critics about what we do wrong in the churches that exist, so let me explain why I say “please don’t.”

    The USA has made a unique contribution to the heresies that plague the Church (which I define as every Christian who ever was, is now, or ever will be, i.e. the Body of Christ) and I call it, variously, “The Grass is Always Greener heresy” or “The Go West Young Man heresy.” Both share the idea that somewhere else is better than the present place ever could become.

    I daresay this is the USA’s unique contribution to here because of the way this country was founded. Pretty much everyone who has ever come here has done so to escape something somewhere else.

    The Church of Not Being Horrible already exists, so we don’t need to start it, we just need to be it. Jesus tells us “the kingdom of God is at hand.” What does it mean when something is “at hand?” It means we can reach out and grab it, it is within our reach, it’s right here next to us.

    As one who is all in favor of church not being filled with horrible people, I suggest that instead of founding yet another new church, we work on what we have. Let’s work on changing it from within. Let’s be subversive(*) followers of Jesus

    How do we do that? By being role models of what we think true followers of Jesus would be. I have some ideas (naturally).

    1) Emphasis upon Easter. When Jesus rose from the dead, He proved for all time that He is God incarnate who walked the earth and shared human life in a fairly intimate way with a group of human beings and offers that same intimacy to us.

    2) Loving God with every fiber of one’s being and challenging one’s self to grow closer to God.

    3) Loving our neighbor, which is everyone on the planet, as we love ourselves and as God first loved us.

    4) Treat others as we would wish to be treated. Which means, among other things

    4A) Be a compassionate, empathetic, gentle, kind person.

    4B) Cease judging others. Jesus is pretty dang clear that ***only*** a person without sin gets to throw a stone. Jesus is pretty clear that our eyes are so full of 2X4s that we have zero business paying any attention whatsoever to a splinter in the eye of someone else.

    4C) Let’s leave the Law to the Jews. As Messiah, Jesus fulfilled all the Law. And if any really wish to follow the Law, let’s emphasize the Jubilee Year of the Lord.

    4D) Welcome everyone we meet as though that person is Jesus.

    5) Let us think in terms of the common good. By that I mean, let us live simply so others might simply live. There are people in the USA so wealthy that they could collectively donate enough money to not only end world hunger but world poverty. Let us live in such a way that our planet can be restored to health as we are only stewards of God’s creation.

    6) Let us embrace the Jesus Creed in Matthew 25. Let us remember that there is every likelihood that we more closely resemble the foolish virgins, rather than the wise ones, the servant who buried the coins then the ones who invested, the goats rather than the sheep.

    6A) Let us remember how we learn to resemble the wise virgins, the wise servants, and the sheep: We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit the prisoners so that they do not despair.

    7) If all this means we pay higher taxes and have less money for luxuries such as subscribing to every cable channel in existence for every TV in every room, designer clothes, Starbucks three times a day, going meatless two or three times a week, etc, then let us rejoice, give thanks, and sing because this means our fellow human beings are getting what they need.

    8) Let us become the kind of people described in the Sermon on the Mount/Plain.

    9) Let us learn from each other. We have so many flavors and voices represented in Christianity. People have chosen to emphasize different aspect. Why did they do that? What might we learn from them?

    There are probably more things. But this is really quite long enough.

    • OOPS Silly Me. I used an asterisk after “subversive” to indicate a footnote I forgot to include the footnote.

      Subsersive* recommended reading:

      Subversive Orthodoxy by Kenneth Leech

      Anything by Walter Wink

  38. John, Been musing lately about people like us, this rag-tag group of humans that searched and “tagged” one another, one person at time, into a grass-root clan.

    What I began to realize about a year ago is: We are healers, we have the actual ability to heal another, a situations, this world. We are empath personalities, most of us, which allows us to absorb and thus heal another, heal humanity.

    It took me awhile to accept that we/I have the gift of healing, a spiritual gift, as I have seen it used wrong so many times by people attempting to “cash” in on healing.

    Yet, I accept we/I do have the gift of healing. For again and again, I see it in the eyes/soul of a person/stranger, when I speak kindly to them, touch their hand, give a hug. I see the scales falling from their eyes and I recognize that they have been stirred, lifted, and healed even if just for a moment. They are better for the encounter in their soul.

    Keep embracing all…. keep speaking, keep healing this humanity, one person at a time…. The more of us whom do so…. allows all of humanity to come to a higher mentality of whom humans are.

    Blessings, JoAnn Forsberg

  39. Pingback: Conservatives, Mental Health, Pardon Me, Ending Democracy – FairAndUNbalanced.com

  40. I love this – I see it, too.

    And a warning to take from the Gospels is in this business of “starting a church.” I think it’s natural for us to want to organize around an idea we feel so excited by. But what your beautiful atheist reader and, it seems, most Christians, don’t seem to understand is that once we institutionalize it, we kill it. This is the story of Judaism and the story up to now of Christianity. For 2,000 years the outliers, the heretics, the remnant of believers running for their lives from the institutional religion are the Church of Jesus’ heart. Once they trade in their wild little family for a name and a building and a list of doctrines they give up the heartbeat of the Kingdom.

    (Which isn’t to say there aren’t religious people who are participating in the Kingdom, just that their religion is not how or why they are part of God’s family.)

    I love this so much and hope that we keep pushing into the movement toward inclusivity and openness alongside each other. I just hope we don’t try to put walls around it and call it something. The Kingdom doesn’t need a charter, and we all might know it by a different name, but those of us chasing after it will recognize each other by our love. At some point, when this thing reaches it’s potential: when we all *get* that we’re all included, we’ll finally have church.

  41. I hope that nothing saves Christianity because, at least for me, most of the beliefs of the faith have nothing to do with the teachings and life of Jesus of Nazareth. Atheists won’t save the church, if by ‘church’ we mean Christianity. What can happen, is that people of various labels see the truth and search of Jesus (and others) and band together enough to start to enable those goals and reality. But it won’t be ‘church’. We do need to join others in real community to enact this. So, John, I hope you do this, and with others, but if you call it a ‘church’ I think you are doomed, as the term just has too much negative baggage.
    I’m spending my effort on doing this, the building of caring and sharing in real community of love. Nothing else is important.
    Thanks.

  42. If you do decide to plant a church, please consider not creating another church building. I am having a really hard time these days seeing empty church buildings all over the place (slight exaggeration) and can’t help but wonder if Jesus would have wanted us to spend so much money paying mortgages and utility bills instead of tending to the least of his.

  43. Atheists, agnostics, and non-Christians aren’t going to save the Christian church. They can’t. But they can extend Satan’s reach. Jesus was exclusive. It was his way or the highway. Celebrating sin was not his way but it is Pavlovitz’s way.

  44. Explain this Pavlovitz: Matthew 10:34–36
    34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

  45. Um… John,
    Jesus was a Jew – all those “non Christians” were Jews. People known as Christians would not exist until long after Jesus’s crucification.
    “It reminded me that Jesus spent much of his life with religious people, a great deal of it with non-religious people—and all of it with non-Christians. He’d set in motion a revolution of radical hospitality….”

    Jesus was a Jew. All his Apostles were Jews. At the famous ‘Last Supper’, Jesus and his 12 were observing Passover. Jesus was a Jew at his death.

    Paul was a Jew when he wrote “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”.

    Back then “The Christian religion” was generations in the future.

    I would expand Paul’s words to: In God there is neither Christian nor Jew, Muslim nor Hindu, male nor female, American or any nationality….

    God is Love. God is infinite in space and time. Our egos, hates and fears – physical attachments – are some of the things that keep us separate from God.

    About 2000 years ago a Rabi and great prophet of the Jews – referring to Duderonomy when asked by Hebru religious leaders said that “the Greatest Commandment was to Love God with All all your Heart, Mind and Strenght. And the second was like it. Love your neighbor as your self. When asked by a law expert “But Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the ‘Good Sumaritin’.

  46. To be redeemed the gay, bisexual, and transgender; the religious, Agnostics, and Atheists must repent. They can’t celebrate their sin and expect Christ’s mercy. He made that clear.

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