Andyouinvitedmein’s Weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Evangelicals

Yesterday, I read an article about Anne Rice. It said she’s leaving Christianity. Actually I don’t read her books and her position on anything doesn’t matter, but this caught my attention. I figured she was more of a gal who considered herself a Christian because she was born to parents who were not a part of another religion. What surprised me was her statement: 

“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me,” Rice wrote. “But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”

Rice isn’t the only one who stated this. I’ve read that Ghandi was seeking Jesus, and actually loved Jesus, but when he went to a church he was turned away.

Wow…what a testimony to a picture of ourselves as conservative Christians. As a group we can look in the mirror and ugly stares back. Christ is difficult to emulate: He lent a hand and support to a woman caught in adultery; he told a story of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, and in each of these stories the theme was going against cultural and traditional religious rules to give of ourselves–just as he had practiced before them with the adulterous woman.

Few Christians show this side–most days I don’t, I’m sure. Our churches try to demonstrate Christ through the rules, and if you break one of those rules (written or assumed) then you’re considered to be “out of fellowship”. Where I live those rules mean to be Republican, don’t drink, cuss or smoke, and so-on. Some denominations say no instrumental music, others say no hair cutting, then others suggest you have no faith if you get sick, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. These rules actually drive people away from Jesus, because they make ‘him’ look like a  man with a check list waiting to condemn people to hell.

I read that Sandra Bullock didn’t want to play a Christian lady in The Blind Side, and said no three times. In the end she was totally pulled to Leigh Anne Tuohy because Leigh Anne gave sacrifically. She was born in a home of privilege that practiced segregation. For Leigh Anne and Sean to embrace the plight of Michael Oher was sacrificial on all levels. Now we have a beautiful success story, but I’m sure seven years ago the road was very difficult.

Beginning today make the word “Christian” mean more than a fried chicken eating, self-righteous pew warmer. Rules and finger-pointing is much easier than show grace and self-sacrifice. Jesus said if he was lifted up then he would draw all men to him. Instead of picketing Planned Parenthood, bring the workers some coffee then ask the next person coming for an abortion if they want to live with you for the next few months as you will take care of all their needs. Instead of trying to find the President’s birth certificate, spend that hour praying for him. Find a single parent or widow and help them around the house.  Be willing to have your motives questioned by your fellow church members–be willing to be kicked out of your comfortable church because you spoke up or acted like Jesus. The road isn’t always easy being a Christ follower, but the rewards will be eternal.


I recently heard a minister say that America isn’t a Christian nation anymore. We conservatives like the idea of a Christian nation—I know I do. I’m thankful that I don’t live in 1940’s USSR or 1970’s China, but as it applies to eternity location doesn’t matter. Because our citizenship is in heaven, Paul said for us to be content whatever our situation might be: whether we’re in America on a Sunday morning or in the salt mines of Russia.

This minister—Scott Lively—has stated that Uganda is a Christian nation because they are taking a stand against homosexuality. Apparently this must be Mr. Lively’s litmus test for what constitutes a Christian nation. In watching the documentary Missionaries of Hate, I heard a Ugandan pastor preach about gay sex practices—extreme information that would be similar to a minister preaching that all heterosexual couples use whips and chains—yep, that extreme. However, sex details of any kind are inappropriate to be included in a sermon. As he spoke the congregation was ‘in a lather’ against the gay community. A message of this kind only sows seeds of hate and fear.

What would Jesus do—in Uganda, for instance? The only lifestyle Jesus challenged was those people who believed that they were holier than others. Jesus looked at all men and women as being precious to God, and wanted us to give unconditional love to our neighbors. Read Matthew 22:36-39: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 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.’

Right now in Uganda there’s a critical piece of legislation that we conservatives need to say a hearty “no” to its passage. This bill seeks to imprison or execute homosexuals; it’s morally wrong and totally un-Jesus. As Christians we need to actively oppose this legislation. Why? Let me offer a few reasons…

  • First, it’s wrong to target the gay and lesbian community—or any community. An example we can surely remember is how several school shooters targeted the football players. In the end only God knows what’s in a man’s heart, and our command is to love.
  • Secondly, this legislation is fertile ground for a ‘witch hunt’ if someone wanted to get even with another person; or if someone assumed the ‘guilt’ of another simply because of that person’s manner of speech, dress or associations.
  • Finally, if it starts in Uganda, where will it end and what other groups will be targeted as part of ‘cleansing’ the nation? Germany is a good example of this type of cleansing.

I think Martin Luther King stated it quite well in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: …I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Please speak out for those who need your voice. Consider the words of Martin Niemoller:

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

I’ve been reading some books lately that are along the same subject: what does the world think of us? Us being conservative Christians…or simply Christians. In my humble opinion I think many Christians take liberty in the verse that says “the world will hate you because it hated me first” (loosely translated from John 15:18). Being a jerk doesn’t qualify for ‘being hated’ in the manner Jesus was talking about.

The first person I think of regarding a misuse of this verse is Fred Phelps. He isn’t liked because exhibits no Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). But where are we creating a problem that interferes with people coming to Jesus?

One area I believe is when we mix politics and Jesus. Jesus was about sacrifice and grace (unconditional love) that draws people. Now let me just jump right in and be more specific with a current event…when we’re out in force saying rude and unkind things about our President, then non-Christian say “oh yes, they’re political, therefore Christians are…” So when violent calls are made to political foes, people see Christianity as being a violent political religion. Jesus tells us to be content no matter what the circumstances. Therefore when I can’t get into a doctor for six months–I will have to rely on Him to help me through. Total trust in Jesus, now isn’t that a novel concept? I wish it was 1960 again but it isn’t and I know that Jesus will keep me even in the darkest hour of need.

Try reading Lord, Save Us From Your Followers! by Dan Merchant (or just get the video!) or unChristian by David Kinnaman (this is back by research done by the Barna group, a recognized church research organization.

For the last ten years I’ve been trying to see things from a different perspective than Southern United States, conservative Christian doctrine. I started by reading the Bible for myself and not through the eyes of “pick and choose” and “this is what my seminary taught”. Then I got very basic when I started seeing real life situations bleeding before my very eyes. Case 1: Pillar of the church family in Big Southern Town, USA where the family helped to start the church, Dad was head of the ruling board of that body. Mom was director of the children’s ministry. Only son came out as gay and the church “didn’t need them anymore.” Case 2: Wife is abused, but church members secretly gossip about what she did to ‘make him do it’ and will there be a divorce. Case 3: Gay father wants custody of teenage son. Mom and stepdad are abusing him. I was helping the father, and when I asked for prayer, a church friend said “well, I don’t think that is a good idea.” The boy was being routinely beaten and more. The judge in the case refused to listen to the boy or the father because the father was gay. The judge got his position because of family values and being a Christian. However, his honest desire to serve families was marred by idiotic teaching that a gay father cannot love his son and protect him as much as a heterosexual parent.

Not that all issues are gay-straight, but gay is the issue of the last two or three decades that divides the church. Before that it was Women’s Rights and before that it was the race issue…were we going to let “colored people” go to church with us? Ugh!!!! I moved to Alabama in 1964 and I can tell you it wasn’t pretty. We lived in a place that was ruled by the KKK. Sunday morning pew warmers (I will not call them Christ Followers even though they identified themselves as Christian) who had hate in their hearts for African Americans.

Therefore, use this Holy Week of the Christian faith to look at your life and how others see it. Choose to change to a course of being a Christ Follower…Red Letter Christian (i.e. do what Jesus said in the red letters) and forget all the other. Be His example!

Hasn’t the news been full of deaths lately? Some expected, some a shock, and most untimely. We just returned from a family reunion in Houston. It was great! We left with our souls over-flowing with love, both given and gotten. So how does this all weave together—other than the fact we were on our way to the family reunion when we heard about Michael Jackson?

People have a need for their family to ride out the bad times, but also be there to help restore lost souls. The Lord is the one who ultimately restores our souls, but He makes good use of our family in the process. When they’re there, who else do you need? What happens, then, to people without family (either blood or by religious bond)?

I heard Chuck Smith, Jr. once say that when a person isn’t allowed in church, or to come home it’s like a musical piece that abruptly stops without warning. Even the non-musical sorts can discern that something isn’t right. When we separate from our loved ones because of a matter we disagree with…whether it’s spiritual, personal, or because of an argument about dish washer detergent (it’s happened!)…it is a song that isn’t finished, and leaves all persons with a void.

Many conservative Christian communities embrace the concept of disfellowship. There’s scripture selected for this practice. I can remember 40 years ago I had a relative-in-law disfellowshipped from the church because he killed his wife…nothing was said about the wife’s many transgressions, or the fact the fatal bullet may not have come from his gun because it was like an Old West shootout; it was messy. However, I was 15 when this happened, and considered disfellowship a wrong practice for these reason:

  1. If he killed a person, wouldn’t it be good to have him in church? Just when you need to embrace the Savior, the people who know Him just don’t think you belong with them even though it says in the Bible that murder is a sin like gossip and lying and coveting…
  2. The concept of disfellowship goes against the grain of what Jesus taught. He embraced all the outcasts and seemed to have a distaste for those religious sorts who thought they were better than everyone else (i.e. see the church disfellowship voters in #1).
  3. And then, finally, if gay people don’t belong in church (I’ve heard this twice in the last few weeks from people outside my geographical region) because of their sin…hum…well, then how are they to know how much Jesus loves them? And what about sin in the church, I mean if we kick out people because they aren’t clean enough to come into the church…my, my, my…let me think about people who are dirty with gossip and lying and coveting, for starts.

We conservatives don’t have an exclusive club with a secret knock. We have a building of whosoevers who have joined because Jesus lives in their heart, OR they are seeking to find out more about Jesus. If we rip the final chord from the song, then we’re left without a song. If we don’t allow certain people in a church, then we’ve forced people to believe that God doesn’t love them. Their hearts are then broken and they may seek other things to heal that hurt, or to fill the void. When we don’t allow our family members to come home “until they repent,” then we shut a door.

We have been given a great salvation, and to whom much is given, much is required. Open the door and welcome in that lost child…extend grace….love beyond reason and God will change your heart!

I think one of the bigger issues this week has been the bill having to do with punishment for people who commit hate crimes. I’ve gotten a couple of pieces of advice from both sides of the debate. I would like to weigh-in a bit on this for my more conservative pals.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you know that when I was ten we moved from the “north” (Kentucky) to an area just south of Tuscaloosa, AL. I had lived my first years where the integration of schools was simply merging a school rather than a political drama. The drama began (after we moved) in 1964 when my fifth grade teacher asked me about going to school with black student…she actually used the n-word. She asked about “them” smelling and biting. I learned that “them” were hated by the locals. As well the locals believed that “them” could be treated in a sub-human way. Members of my father’s church bragged about the terrible deeds they did to “them”. Members of our church harassed my father for refusing to join their local whites-only club called the KKK.

So here we are 45 years later. I’m finding there is a new “them” out there. I’m a school counselor and one of “my” children told me it was okay to hit, stab or kill a person because they were gay. Certainly a nine-year-old doesn’t just go to bed at night and dream this up without a bit of help from a significant adult in their lives promoting this belief.

I’m not much for making comments on hot political issues, but let me throw this one out for you (my conservative pals) to chew on….

Almost eleven years ago we had the opportunity to speak out for someone who had been injured by a crime borne of hate. Matthew Sheppard was brutally killed and I don’t remember one significant conservative pastor opening their mouth to say “this is wrong!” Instead we were silent…I was silent. Maybe we just wanted to be “us” and if we spoke out against what happened someone might think we were “them.” No clue.

Instead, in our silence there was one “Christian” voice–an evil man who said he represented “us” because in his demonstrations of hate he held signs that stated he was a Christian, and was speaking for God. Because we chose to remain silent, he became the face of fundamentalism and in many peoples’ eyes they think he is one of us…

This bill was written to protect people from him. So when we worry about what the hate crimes bill will do to “us”–we need to first think about what happens when our acts of grace remain hidden. Next, take we need to take our “grace” temperature. Are we servants who live like Jesus or do we have a political agenda to protect our rights? Grace isn’t a warm fuzzy…it is dying to self so others can see Jesus at work.

I’ve heard rumor will this take away the rights of pastors/Christians who want to point a finger at sin. The answer I have: a person giving grace won’t lose their rights. When we live like Jesus our “rights” aren’t so important. We will take a bullet for them because we refuse to let “them” be harmed. Jesus did it for us…

0214091038 Supplies available to clients are those necessary items that can’t be purchased with food stamps.

There is something wonderful going on in Dallas. It is an AIDS Service Organization called White Rock Friends…an outreach of the White Rock Community Church and its mission is to support the HIV/AIDS community by offering a variety of programs to assist individuals in their day to day lives. It is more than just your bag of groceries and a pat on the back until next month…

I don’t know who began the program years ago, but right now Douglas Shaffer is the go-to man with all the facts. It was his vision to take this from government red-tape into a program that’s available to meet peoples’ needs. Clients become friends who come to the church facility on Tuesdays (for the store, only) and Saturdays to get their supplies like Pinesol, bandaids, and toilet paper. They can also get clothes and have a wonderful lunch. Daniel is the head chef of these lunches and he has only missed one Saturday in eight years. That’s dedication! Everyone there is dedicated.

0214091037Another thing that Douglas realizes is that many times our friends who are HIV+ or have AIDS need food for their pet. Pet food is in abundant supply at White Rock Friends (and so is Emma, the Maltese and mascot of White Rock).

The word in a nutshell for White Rock Friends is caring. Everyone who serves cares for the clients. The clients feel the love. For Valentine’s Day there was an elegant meal of chicken cordon bleu, green bean casserole, dressing, salad (with nice greens), fresh fruit salad, chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake with caramel or strawberry sauce…and it was YUMMY! My family got the honor of serving food that day. We also got the honor of meeting many of the clients.

If you are ever in Dallas visit White Rock Community Church and find out how you can help this wonderful ministry.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra by Michael Tyler

Trans-Siberian Orchestra as photographed by Michael W. Tyler

On Sunday we went to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and with all the lights and acoustics I suddenly felt like I could be on that stage performing. I was dreaming like when I was younger and it seemed like the sky was the limit on what I could do and who I could become. When you are young you don’t think about not seeing a loved one again.

The last twenty-four hours has been nostalgic in that I longed to be back at my grandparent’s house. There were certain things that could only happen there with them like my grandfather calling Santa “Santy”. Or my grandmother always burning the bottoms of cheap biscuits–those you buy in four pack for around a dollar for the four.

Everyone was welcomed at their home. Family members who might not be welcomed anywhere else were welcome to come and have a bite to eat and fellowship. Because my grandparents were peacemakers, no one who had an ought with another got mad at Jewell and Ercie for befriending the other party. This gift has been passed down to my parents as they could have hostile acquaintances come to their table and peace would take over everyone…there was no more family or friend “war”.

This is Christmas Day…the day our Savior was born and it was through him that our sins are forgiven and we are reconciled to God. Today is the day you need to find that loved one who has been outside the warmth of your embrace…if you can’t find them by traditional means search through Google, Facebook and MySpace. Make this a “Lost Sheep Day” and welcome them home.

I started this blog by talking about youth and things we don’t think of such as losing our loved ones. On Christmas Eve morning I lost a friend named Jack. He was a beloved pastor who had the heart of a child and embraced everyone. I’ve known Jack for eight years and suddenly time was gone: time to tell him how much I loved him or how much embodied the grace of Jesus in his everyday life.

On Christmas Eve night a close friend became a grandmother. That baby is just like the baby that comes to everyone. Remember that special love the first time you saw your child, sibling, friend? If you are not in touch…reach out and get in touch TODAY!!! Blessings…