Can We Get Past This?

By David Schwier–4/4/2018

 

Here is a distillation of current race relations in America:

Black people: ‘Racism is still a huge issue in America.’

White people: ‘No, it’s not. We’re past this.’

Hmmmm.

Why the disconnect?

Black people: ‘White people don’t listen to us.’

White people: ‘Black people are whiners.’

So which is it?

Is there still a huge problem, or are we past this?

Here’s one reason white people say we’re past this:

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So why are African-Americans still criticizing?

Well, because of this:

Because quite often well-meaning white people don’t understand how their words and actions still perpetuate racism in ways they don’t even realize is happening.

“What, Dave? You’re crazy…”

No, I’m not.

Here’s a great example:

In 1999 I remember watching Serena Williams being interviewed by Mary Carillo after Serena won her first US Open tennis title.

I dreaded what was coming. I was already cringing.

The question. The question.

The question that would belittle Serena; and Mary was completely clueless.

Mary asked Serena: “How does it feel to be the first African-American woman to win the US Open since (the last African American woman many years ago)?”

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I felt horrible for Serena.

Absolutely horrible.

Because I knew Serena didn’t care how it felt to be the first African American to win since blah, blah, blah.

She only cared about what’s like to be the first Serena Williams to win.

And rightly so.

Because no white player is ever asked what it’s like to be the umpteenth hundredth white person to win the US Open.

Nor is any white basketball player in the African-American dominated NBA ever asked what it’s like to be the 158th white person to win an NBA title.

That would be ridiculous.

Now….

In Mary’s defense, she was probably trying to be helpful.

Mary might have legitimately thought, Serena’s gone against the odds. She’s had to work harder to overcome obstacles white people don’t face.

What Mary didn’t know, however, was that this is exactly how white people trying to be helpful can actually make things worse.

Because she should have known Serena Williams only wanted to be the first Serena Williams to win the US Open.

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And again, rightly so.

Sloane Stephens only wanted to be the first Sloane Stephens to win the US Open, just as Steffi Graf only ever wanted to be the first Steffi Graf to win the US Open.

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Steffi Graf never wanted, or asked, to represent the entire white race.

Why should Serena, or Sloane, want to represent their entire race?

Bringing up race in every situation is not progress.

When we stop bringing up race in every situation…that is progress.

So this gets to the heart of the current racial disconnect in America:

Because White culture needs to understand that when these types of situations occur, and the black community says “that’s racist,” that’s what they mean.

They are not calling Mary Carillo a racist.

They are not saying she’s a card-carrying member of the KKK intent on burning crosses and hanging people from trees.

No.

And it’s not helpful when white people push back with that kind of ridiculousness.

What they are saying is that you can have racist actions and words, and not even realize it.

That’s what they’re saying.

So what would success look like?

Success would mean not necessarily being color blind, but being color affirming.

That means all people are created, and treated, equal: Dark skin, pale skin, cream skin, blue skin if you like.

Because who cares?

It’s just frickin’ skin.

No more of a biological function than pooping or growing hair.

It’s your body’s genetic pre-programming to best help you survive in your environment.

And the environment of pale Europeans was not North America. (Pale skin is best suited for Northern European climes.)

And the environment of African people was not North America. (Dark skin is best suited for African climes.)

Both came later.

So what is the best genetic pre-programmed skin hue for North America?

We know exactly what it is, because those people are still here living on the worst land in the worst physical and cultural conditions.

Europeans used to call them ‘Indians,’ but they’re really Native Americans.

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And their skin is smack in the middle of pale and dark. A really nice tan, exactly what millions of white people flock to the beach each year to achieve.

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So….

What is needed is understanding.

Learning.

Listening to each other.

Fixing what is broken in certain systems.

Then, and only then, will we get closer to a society that is more equal, and just, for all.

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What Does It Mean To ‘Live Biblically?’

By: David Schwier—3/13/18

 

Have you seen the show “Living Biblically?”

The show is loosely, and I mean loosely, based on the awesome book by AJ Jacobs entitled “The Year of Living Biblically.”

I highly recommend the book.

It was awesome.

But I’m not sure why someone decided to make it a sitcom, other than to reinforce the fact that Sara Gilbert is once again the best comedic actor in the room.

Her part is dang near worth suffering through the rest…….buuuutttttt not quite.

Suffering, you say?

Yes.

Because the Bible never intended for anyone (after the time of Jesus) to live the Bible, which in this sitcom scenario means trying to follow a smattering of the 613 Laws of Moses as encountered in the Old Testament.

………not mixing fabrics (Leviticus 19, Deuteronomy 22)

……….not lying (thou shalt not)

………not committing adultery (thou shalt also not)

……….Etc, etc.

And it seems the strict following of these particular Laws are the only fodder for humor in the show (besides Sarah Gilbert’s character, which I already mentioned kicks total ass!)

But here’s the rub—

If it weren’t bad enough that all of humanity seems to have misunderstood the fact that no one past Jesus was ever required to follow these 613 laws, Gentiles (everyone not in the ethnic line of Israel) were never required by God to follow them to begin with.

God only ever required Israel to follow the Law.

That’s right.

We’re talking the 10 commandments.

We’re talking most of the teachings of Jesus…

WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!

We’re not required to live out and follow most of the teachings of Jesus?

Are you on Crack?!

No. Not today.

But yes, we are not required by God to follow and live out most of the teachings of Jesus.

Why?

Because no Gentiles were ever required to follow the Law of Moses. And Jesus spent the bulk of his time clearly expositing to Israel the commandments (laws) of the Old Testament—as evidenced by people asking him, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment” and ‘which commandments must I follow to inherit eternal life?’ etc, etc.

The book of Hebrews is clear that the death and resurrection of Jesus signaled the end of the Law of Moses for the people of Israel (Hebrews 8:13). Therefore no one after Jesus has been required by God to follow the Law of Moses.

Being required to follow the Law (even and especially when Jesus was teaching it*) has been replaced by a better way of relating to God. This “new way” is what Paul and the other New Testaments writers were trying to communicate throughout the NT (Romans 6:7, Book of Galatians, Book of Hebrews).

You can read it for yourself, and I encourage you to do so.

“Ok, so…Dave, that was a lot. A lot to take in. But I’m thinking what you’ve said so far makes sense….”

Thanks.

“But what I want to know is, if what you’ve critiqued so far is not the message of the Bible, then what is—in your humble opinion—the message the Bible is actually trying to communicate?”

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Here is the message of the Bible in a nutshell:

First, at its core, the Bible isn’t mainly about people.

That’s right.

It’s not.

It’s about this character named ‘God.’

And this character has a dilemma, from the first page all the way through the book of John.

Which is:

How can a God of love live intimately with and among the humans God loves—humans that are seemingly hopelessly and forever prone to wronging each other.

You needn’t go further than Cain and Abel to starkly see the dilemma:

Let’s say I have two brothers that I love.

But one wrongs the other.

In my love for the one wronged, retribution (justice) must be meted out toward the one responsible for the wrong, or it could hardly be said that I love the victimized brother.

But I love the brother who did the wrong as much as the brother who was wronged. I desperately want to show mercy and forgiveness to this beloved brother.

But it would be unfair (unloving) to the one wronged that the perpetrator walk away scot-free….

So…..

What to do?

In the case of Cain and Abel, this is what happens: Spare the killer, but send him outside the tribe, and mark him as a child of God.

Interesting solution, but now…he’s outside the tribe.

Not inside the tribe in loving communion and community.

So God’s ultimate solution?

God takes the retribution for all of humanity’s wrongdoing on Godself, in an enormous, pretty damn-near unbelievable act of grace, mercy and forgiveness, by absorbing into Godself the full violence of the humanity that God loves.

And now, in Acts chapter 1 of the Bible, with the tension between God’s love and justice resolved, the spirit of God is finally free to live among humans—who still do wrong, but are fully forgiven—in a cosmic reboot of humanity echoed throughout the Biblical ages in story after story of evil being met with grace, mercy, forgiveness and salvation.

From the Garden of Eden to Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel, Abraham leaving his home to start a new tribe, the Exodus, Judges, David’s fallible humanity but promise that the ultimate redeemer would come through his ancestral line, the recovery of God’s Law during the successive reign of evil kings, and Israel’s ultimate exile to Babylon and God restoring them to the land…

Each story a story of God moving in and through a horrible situation to bring about goodness, redemption and renewal.

Each story a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ, and ultimately God living in and among God’s newly rebooted creation where the Spirit of love, peace and joy, the very Kingdom of God on earth, is lived in by the very Spirit of God Godself—who doesn’t coerce in a nuclear blast of mandatory subjugation, but instead grows and expands this kingdom, this love, like a tiny mustard seed, like yeast in dough, like each and every time we choose to love and forgive our fellow humans when they commit a wrong against us.

We can experience and participate with this God of Love when we decide we have no enemies, because no one is any longer outside the tribe.

Everyone’s inside.

With all of us and with God.

There’s only people to love.

People we have the opportunity and privilege to love with the love of God (who showed us how to love by first loving us).

That is the message of the Bible summed up.

And it’s frickin’ awesome.

 

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*This from the Wikipedia page entitled, ‘Great Commandment’:

“In Mark, when asked ‘which is the great commandment in the law?’ the Greek New Testament reports that Jesus answered, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, The Lord is One; Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind’, before also referring to a second commandment, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ Most Christian denominations consider these two commandments the core of the Christian religion.”

In the quoted biblical passage, who is Jesus specifically addressing?

Israel.

It’s right there in the text.

Israel was the only people under the mandate of the Law of Moses.

So let’s look at the last sentence of that Wikipedia quotation and ask ourselves:  How in the world did two commandments from the Law of Moses become the ‘core of the Christian religion?’

It’s a good question to ask.

This Is The New Reformation

By: David Schwier–2/13/2018

 

I am hearby tacking this to the door.

Any door.

Wherever you may find one.

Let the new Reformation begin!

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Churches have been guilt-factories for centuries.

We all know this.

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Why?

Because it’s been taught for 2,000 years that people need to live and follow the teachings of Jesus.

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WHAT?

Yes.

I said it.

Holy crap!

But hear me out.

It’s simple:

Jesus was teaching the Law of Moses to his culture, who were under the Law of Moses with him (Galatians 4:4).

It’s right there in the text: “I have not come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it.” (Matthew 5:17)

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He then goes on to challenge his culture to live and follow the Law of Moses properly, something no one but the ancestral line of the Hebrew people were ever supposed to do.

(Important note: Everyone not in the line of Hebrew people in the Bible are referred to as “Gentiles.” That’s pretty much all of us….except ethnic Jewish people.)

Christianity has pretty much gotten this massively, massively wrong.

No gentile was ever supposed to strive to follow the Sermon on the Mount. (see why here)

No gentile was ever supposed to live by nearly all the parables of Jesus. (see why here)

A ton of Jesus’ teaching does not apply to gentiles nor tell them how to live (that comes later with Paul, who, interestingly, did not reiterate the teachings of Jesus or tell people to live by them….huh….that’s curious).

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Whoever put the diving line between the Old and New Testaments at Micah and Matthew has caused untold amounts of harm and damage to the human psyche…for centuries.

The diving line should’ve always been between John and Acts.

Jesus exposes the guilt of all humanity by teaching the Law of Moses to his people, then forgives IT ALL on the cross.

New life begins in Acts, not in Matthew.

We need to get this right.

All we have to do is question any sermon, book or pastor who tells us we need to follow the teachings of Jesus when Jesus was clearly teaching the Law of Moses, such as the Sermon on the Mount, and many of his parables.

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I am hearby tacking this to the door.

Any door, wherever you may find one.

Let the new Reformation begin!

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What do you think?

Was Jesus teaching the Law of Moses to those under the Law of Moses with him….and only them?

If so, what does that mean for us today?

Have we been understanding the New Testament properly?

Should this be the start of a New Reformation? 

The Book of Hebrews: You Are Already Liberated!

A review of Dennis McCallum’s book “Liberation: Follow the Book of Hebrews into a Life of Radical Grace” (Available on Amazon)

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by: David Schwier—8/6/2017

 

Wow.

Where do I start?

I guess at the beginning.

I know Mr. McCallum personally because I began attending his church in Columbus, Ohio in 1983 and continued for upwards of 20 years.

I’m super grateful for the church. It was a great experience.

So this review is not about being disgruntled or disillusioned with Mr. McCallum, or his church.

Far from it.

What I’m going to do here is use Mr. McCallum’s book for a much broader purpose.

To critique ‘mainstream’ protestant theology, the lens through which Mr. McCallum wrote his book.

The same theology nearly all Christian theologians, pastors and books espouse today, which I find to be less than Biblically accurate.

So enough of the introduction—Let’s dive straight into “Liberation: Follow the Book of Hebrews into a Life of Radical Grace.”

Here’s the Amazon teaser (which will become important later):

“The early Hebrew Christians were in big trouble! Beginning with little steps of unbelief, they were now hardened in their hearts and dull of hearing. To escape persecution and fit in with the neighbors, they had accommodated and domesticated radical following. This is what happens when people abandon raw grace for a watered down legalism. Modern readers should be able to recognize the Hebrews’ condition because much of the modern western church has the same problem.”

Ok, so.

Cracking open a copy of the book, Mr. McCallum begins with a discussion of who wrote the Book of Hebrews and why.

But from the word go, we’re already off track.

Because it’s assumed by Mr. McCallum that the writer of the Book of Hebrews was meaning to tell ‘Christians’ something about God and how they should live.

Mr. McCallum has already assumed the recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews were Hebrew ‘Christians.’ (People from the former Jewish/Hebrew way of life who had converted to Christianity.)

Well, duh, Dave.

Of course that’s right.

Of course what is said in the letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians and should be directly applied to our Christian lives.

It’s in the New Testament isn’t it?

Well, yes, it is.

But, no.

That’s not what the Book of Hebrews is about, for reasons not initially obvious to our 21st century ‘Christian’ mindsets.

Because this letter was not written to ‘Christians’ as we think of ‘Christianity’ today.

In actuality, this letter was specifically written to any and all of the Jewish-Israeli-Hebrew ethnic line of people at a time when there was essentially no such thing as ‘Christianity.’

It’s a letter to the HEBREWS. Wherever they may be found.

The Hebrews were an ethnic line of people who had been charged by God for thousands of years to keep a covenant called ‘The Law of Moses.’

And if they followed these 613 laws, God blessed them.

If they disobeyed, they got curses.

That was the contract God had between himself and the Hebrew people. And only them. No one else was involved.

That is the story of ‘The Old Testament.’

So at the time of the writing of the Book of Hebrews, the ethnic Judaic/Hebrew people had two choices before them: Continuing to follow the Law of Moses, or being freed from it.

Let’s be clear: Paul and the disciples were NOT trying to convert people out of Judaism into something called ‘Christianity.’

Paul, Peter and the disciples believed the exact same God of Judaism—the God of Israel, the God of the Old Testament, the God of the Hebrew people—had now, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, ENDED the theocratic Old Testament covenant of the Law of Moses forever in favor of a NEW covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13); a covenant Paul called ‘Freedom’ (Galatians 5:1) and ‘Living by the Spirit’ (Romans 7:6).

And what signified the new covenant?

The fact that Jesus was the end of the Law, which included him being the last (THE final) temple sacrifice for the sins of all humanity.

It had all been finished.

Nothing more needed to be done.

That is what the Book of Hebrews is actually about.

It’s one big argument for how the ethnic/cultural/religious line of Hebrew people were now ‘liberated’ (freed) from the Law of Moses to enter into God’s rest (Hebrews 3-4).

And that’s the only point.

It has nothing to do with Gentiles (all non-Hebrew people) or anything we know today as ‘Christianity.’

Again: Paul and the gang were not trying to create a new religion, and certainly not trying to create what we think of today as ‘Christianity.’

That came later with Rome and Constantine.

But I digress…

So 2,000 years ago (in this theocratic ‘Law of Moses’ setting) when Peter and his buddies came along, most Hebrew people couldn’t stomach the idea of a ‘new covenant’ having to do with some guy named Jesus. So they chose instead to think nothing had changed; that God still wanted them to follow the 613 Laws of Moses.

So they persecuted those opting for this new covenant ‘freedom’ idea.

This was the historical context of the audience of the Book of Hebrews.

So let’s look real quick at the last sentence from the Amazon teaser for Mr. McCallum’s book:

“…Modern readers should be able to recognize the Hebrews’ condition because much of the modern western church has the same problem.”

What?

Really?

Does the Western church really have the same problem as the Hebrew people as discussed in the Book of Hebrews?

How could that even be possible?

Because ask yourself: Does the modern western church have a problem with feeling under pressure to follow the 613 laws of Moses?

Have you recently heard of a church board discussing who, and who isn’t, making sure everyone builds fences around their rooftops so that anyone who goes up there won’t fall off (Deuteronomy 22:8)?

And is anyone preparing to stone anyone who disobeys that edict?

Ask yourself: Is your church discussing the best way to put menstruating women ‘outside the camp’ during their period of uncleanliness (Leviticus 15)?

No? Then you are, in fact, not experiencing the situation the audience of the Book of Hebrews faced, nor their ‘problem.’

At all.

You’re simply not.

And even more so, is any church today being persecuted by the dominant culture to fall back into following the 613 Laws of Moses?

Do we see that happening anywhere?

No, we do not.

It simply doesn’t exist today.

Anywhere.

So what you get with the Book of Hebrews is NO information about how to live, or not live, your life today as a 21st century Gentile.

What you do get with the Book of Hebrews is a well-reasoned and carefully constructed theological argument for why—2,000 years ago—a small band of Jews (Hebrews) declared that the life and death of Jesus changed their cultural and religious way of life (as well as the rest of the world) forever—as mandated by God.

A cultural and religious heritage put aside 2,000 years ago that I’m pretty sure no western church struggles with falling back into today.

I think it’s time we get this right.

It’s time to stop using the Book of Hebrews incorrectly, much less using it to guilt people with Biblical passages that have nothing to do with the life of a Gentile today, or the life of a Gentile ever.

So in conclusion:

If you are of Jewish/Hebrew descent today, and you truly struggle with thinking God still wants you to follow the 613 Laws of Moses, then please, by all means, read and digest the New Testament Book of Hebrews.

You will certainly find your way to liberation.

I guarantee it.

As for everyone else, as Gentiles you never needed ‘liberated’ from the Law of Moses because you were never under it to begin with.

And that’s great news.

So sadly for Mr. McCallum’s book, I hope it’s now clear how his book should be of no consequence to anyone today—Jew or Gentile—since it’s been interpreted through the lens of a modern ‘Christianity’ theology that we’ve inherited 1,500 years+ after Jesus; a theology Paul and the other NT writers never intended.

You are already ‘liberated.’

Nothing else needs to be done.

Contrary to Mr. McCallum’s book, The New Testament does not define a religious way of life you need to live in order to make, or keep, God happy.

The New Testament is a statement of good news that we’ve ALL been liberated into freedom with God no matter our ethnicity or background, with no restraints or restrictions.

And as long as none of us choose to fall back into shackling ourselves with the Law of Moses (which would be super weird for a Gentile to do), we will continue to live in that freedom.

Forever.

With no God-mandated rules or laws to keep, and no strings attached.

Just living with the Spirit of God in freedom.

And that’s good news indeed.

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Please See Me

By: David Schwier—5/5/2017

 

I can’t recommend this series highly enough:

Stephen Hawking’s GENIUS.

It’s…well….genius.

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It came out last summer on PBS and seems to have slipped under our collective radar.

Because the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever seen was at the end of an episode called, ‘Where Did the Universe Come From?’

Near the end of the episode, the question is asked, “Where is the actual point in space where the Big Bang occurred?”

A good question.

A really good question.

And Stephen Hawking proves, rather ingeniously, that the very point at which the universe was created, the very center of the universe…

Is…

Right at the tip of each person’s nose.

That’s right.

No joke.

Each observer of the universe is the exact center of the universe.

Not metaphorically….but actually….scientifically.

It’s crazy.

You have to see it. (you can watch it here)

So……

Interestingly—and dishearteningly—the church and science have had this ongoing hugely wasteful battle for centuries over whether humans, or the earth, or our solar system, or our galaxy, and so on and on….was, or was not, the center of the universe.

And as it turns out—in a massive, massive irony—we’ve looped all the way back ‘round to where Stephen Hawking and other modern scientists have proved that not only is our galaxy, solar system, sun, earth and the human species directly at the center of the universe…but that indeed, in actuality…in stone-cold scientific terms…each individual human, IS, by dispassionate scientific fact…the center of the universe.

Holy shit.

And not only that, but…..

This is exactly what every human from age 2 on has always known.

That they are, in fact, the center of the universe.

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But for some strange reason, by some odd mis-firing of our brains, or maybe just out of pure evolutionary necessity, I don’t know…at the very core of our beings we tell ourselves a serious non-truth.

A falsity.

A lie that goes like this:

“You are the center of the universe…and no one else is.”

And we’re committed to that till our dying days.

Believing that untruth is bad for societies, and super unhealthy for individuals…And could land you in jail….or make you President of the United States (but that’s another story…)

So who will help us?

Who will come to our rescue?

Who will save us?

Again, in another massive irony—science and the Bible will.

Science and the Bible will save us.

Because both science and the Bible tell us this actual truth:

You are the center of the universe, and so is everyone else.”

That’s the truth.

Stephen Hawking proved it.

Jesus said it this way, by summing up the Law of Moses, “Treat everyone as you’d want to be treated.” (Sam Harris says this too, for those of you keeping score.)

Unfortunately, when you decide you’re going to live by the words of Sam Harris…and Jesus… you’ll find out that it’s impossible.

Dammit.

If you try to always treat others as you want to be treated, you’ll find out exactly how impossible it is to overcome the persistent, bizarre, down-in-your-core drive to want everything to be for you, to be about you, to serve…..you.

We don’t want to share our toys.

We don’t want all people and races to equally benefit from social and societal institutions.

We just……don’t.

And just exactly how committed to that are we?

Russell Brand put it this way: “Even if we were to figure out the perfect system for a perfect world; the perfect economics, the perfect philosophy, the perfect everything…there’d still be that one asshole in the room who’d want to fuck it up.”

It’s true.

We want to tear things down.

We want to win at all costs.

We want to gain every advantage for ourselves no matter the effect on others.

And individuals and societies stay a mess…

A big, fat, ugly mess…as cycles of selfishness, revenge and violence that will never get us where we want to go keep going and going and going….

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Whew….!

Ok.

So…

Now that we know each one of us is the center of the universe…let’s go even deeper and discover this truth:

That in our core—deep down inside each one of us—we have a demand.

A demand that is not evil…but quite legitimate.

Which is this:

I want to be seen.

From the playground to the retirement home—

Do you see me?

Can you see me?

Please see me.

Please validate me.

Please…love me.

These are natural and good impulses.

But here’s the brutal question:

Where do we seek their fulfillment?

If we say, ‘From other people, of course….’, then yes…that’s true…humans can and do provide a measure of love from friends, family and societal accomplishments.

But we also might want to consider that we might be looking for love in all the wrong places.

Because if everyone on earth is legitimately seeking this love and attention from each other all at the same time, all the time, always…What happens when things break down?…as they ultimately do—or have already done—when people reject us, abandon us, put us down, belittle us, abuse us, or simply don’t…love us.

What happens then?

This is why the Bible interjects two mechanisms to help us move from the constant rat-wheel of demanding insatiability to a place of productive contentment, successful relationships, and fluidly running societies.

The first of these mechanisms is forgiveness….practiced individually and corporately.

An absolute necessity.

And the second is a God who sees you and loves you–individually and corporately…all the time….for all time.

Even if you were the last—or only—person on earth.

God sees you…and loves you.

All the time.

Always.

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The Problem of ‘Christianity’

By: David Schwier–12/28/2016

 

I’m currently reading a book called “Why I Became An Atheist” by John W. Loftus, a former Christian pastor.

Lamenting the struggle of his former life, he states on page 35:

“I tried the best I could to be a faithful Christian and a good minister. Even though I believed it was by grace that I had been saved, I almost always felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough in response to God’s purported love.

“Whether it was spending time in prayer, evangelizing, reading the Bible, tithing, forgiving, or struggling with temptations of lust, pride, selfishness, and laziness, as I look back, I almost always felt guilty.”

That was my experience, too.

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Because churches, sermons and Christian books all drive this machine of never being good enough and never doing enough for God.

Mix that with the American hyper-work ethic….and you have ‘Christianity’ as we know it today.

And people are rejecting it.

Left and right.

Ok. So. Do this as an experiment: Go to your local church and listen to the sermon.

Is the speaker telling you what the Bible actually teaches?

That you are a New Creation, that the old things have passed away and the new has come? (super positive)

That Jesus Christ took away the sin of the world, the sin of the whole world, and there is no longer any guilt before God? (super positive)

That there is no treadmill of constantly striving to be ‘better’ for fear of displeasing God? (super positive)

Can you see that the ‘treadmill of constantly striving’ is just a false theological construction developed over centuries to force people to be ‘good,’ but it has, in fact, no basis in the Bible at all.

It’s unfortunate things have gone this far.

Because according to the Bible, and especially the writings of Paul, it was never meant to be this way.

What Loftus describes above is far from the freedom the New Testament writers were so excited about.

The freedom God went to the cross to give us freely (Galatians 5:1).

The problem throughout history has always been the pesky worry that if we teach freedom the way the Bible teaches it, it will result in widespread immorality and the certain destruction of the human race as everyone follows their basest impulses to the nth degree until all is destroyed.

Gone.

But the crazy thing is, the Bible, and God, has entrusted that this won’t happen.

God is more positive in his view and trust of us than that.

Because just as atheists are quick to point out today, if you were convinced God didn’t exist, does that mean you’d immediately go out and rape and murder everything you saw?

Probably not.

Now, that doesn’t mean the existence or non-existence of God has no bearing at all on how we make choices or live our lives.

I believe it does. Hugely.

But I think we can all agree that taking away the idea of God as ‘policeman’ wouldn’t result in the immediate disintegration of humanity.

But if God exists–and we decide we want to respect God–then what matters most is our starting point.

Should we start with rules and laws, as Loftus did above?…Or should we start with freedom, love and ‘living by the Spirit’? (Galatians 5:1; Book of James; I Corinthians 13; Romans 7:6; Book of Galatians)

Because according to Paul in the New Testament, the Biblical life is not about–as Loftus thought–having a list of behaviors you’re constantly trying, or trying not, to do.

That is a recipe for failure, as Paul clearly states in the New Testament (Romans 7). Paul said putting ourselves up against rules and laws only INCREASES guilt.

Look again at Loftus’s list above of how he felt he ‘fell short’ time and time again.

Those are all RULES.

Rules that exist to increase guilt. That’s what they do.

And that’s all they do.

They are not the solution.

The solution to rules, laws and guilt, the Bible says, was Jesus taking away all guilt on the cross.

Taking it away.

Forever.

“It is finished.”

Paul says life now is about God, love and freedom…..not sin, rules and laws.

We are to live by the Spirit. Live in relation to a Spirit; the spirit of God.

So what does ‘living by the Spirit’ look like?

We don’t know.

Because when Rome invented ‘Christianity,’ the Bible and theology became domesticated and living by the Spirit got shelved.

So except for a few years between Acts 1 and Constantine, the world has been waiting to see what ‘living by the Spirit’ looks like.

It’s still waiting to see.

freedom-1024x682

Islam and The West: The Need For a New Kind of Dialogue

By: David Schwier–12/7/2016

Well, it’s finally happened.

Last week at The Ohio State University (my Alma Mater) a Somali immigrant/student went on a terrorist rampage.

Even more chilling was that he was interviewed at the beginning of the semester by the school paper, The Lantern, saying, “I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media.

“I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re going to just have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.”

And then he turns right around and mounts a terrorist attack.

On the day of the attack, he wrote on his Facebook page: “I am sick and tired of seeing [Muslims] killed & tortured EVERYWHERE… I can’t take it anymore. America! Stop interfering with other countries… [if] you want us Muslims to stop carrying [out] lone wolf attacks.”

So in essence, a man who feared he was being beat-down in America for his beliefs, and lived in fear of being profiled as a Muslim terrorist, turned right around in a few short months and became…a Muslim terrorist.

A terrorist for his beliefs.

For his beliefs.

He was not mentally ill.

He was quite sane.

This time there’s no denying it.

As I said, it’s finally happened.

This time there’s no denying that his Muslim beliefs, tied to teachings of cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, were the motivating factor.

Now, to be fair, I lived in the Middle East for three years and found Muslims to be some of the most hospitable and community/family oriented people on earth.

They have their problems, but I remember constantly thinking two things:

First was that every time I befriended a local I always went away thinking, ‘That is the coolest person I’ve ever met.”

And second, no one in the West, no one, not even the best and most loving Christians I know, are going to out-‘nice’ these people.

No one.

Granted, I lived in an area of the Middle East that was very wealthy (that helps) and held to the most laid-back version of Islam to be found in the Middle East.

That helps, too.

But coming back to America, and seeing the terrorism and listening to dialogue and debate in the public sphere, I’ve felt compelled to speak to the gap where I believe these dialogues breakdown and get stuck.

So here’s a few thoughts:

First, and of utmost importance, is the need for Westerners (and Americans in particular) to understand we have separation of church and state…..and Muslims (as the religion teaches) do not.

We compartmentalize religion and politics. We think of them as separate.

Muslims do not.

For them, religion and politics are the same thing.

And until this is understood and digested, Muslim/Western dialogue will continue to be ‘apples and oranges’ and nothing constructive will ever get off the ground.

So here’s some help.

What Westerners Need To Know:

All Muslims consider themselves part of the greater religio-political tribe of Muslims. This is called ‘The Ummah.’

The Ummah is their religion and their state.

So when there’s talk of Jihad, think Muslim ‘national security.’

It’s very important to understand this. Because the rationale for Muslims killing an apostate Muslim is not necessarily religious as the West thinks of it.

Apostasy from Islam is seen as an act of treason against the state.

The West and America have laws on the books wherein an individual can be executed for treasonous actions.

In this regard, The West and Islam have the exact same way of thinking.

Exactly the same.

Islam was formed by Mohammad in the 6th century as a unifying force to bring separate (and often warring) Arab tribes together under one roof, under one law, and under one theocratic governance.

Before Islam, the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula had many different gods and idols they held to and worshiped, meaning different laws and rules were in place for each different tribe, making life fairly chaotic at that time.

So the appeal, and greatness of Islam, at the time of Mohammed was that it united all tribes under one system…making, in essence, one enormous religio-political tribe—The Ummah.

Inside the Ummah was your security and your God.

To be outside meant you could not survive. And to weaken that system in any way, to weaken or transgress against The Ummah, was an act of treason.  (Think of the American stink over Californian John Walker Lindh when he said he was Taliban. Did Americans not want to kill him? Or at the very least banish him from America? Yes, they did.)

Ok, so now….

Put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of a Middle Eastern Muslim.

From birth, you are taught The Ummah is your safety net—all the way from birth to death. Preserve it, defend it. That is Jihad. And nothing patriotic Americans wouldn’t do for America.

Then, suddenly, post-WW I Western powers come (once again) to your land, the land of your Ummah, and carve out political boundaries to make things easier on themselves, with no regard for what, or how, you think about the world, your land, or your Ummah.

So their carving of political, nationalistic boundaries was not only confusing to you, but offensive.

And rightly so.

Because back then, you didn’t see yourself as Jordanian, or UAE, or Yemeni or Bahraini.

These Nationalisms and ‘fake’ political boundaries didn’t matter to you one bit.

And yet, to function in the broader modern world, you had to live by these artificial political boundaries created by outsiders.

And to you, this carving of boundaries went against the very progress you saw that was made by Mohammed and Islam when he created the unifying Ummah.

These boundaries, to you, seem like a regression to division and chaos.

And to make things worse, since you see religion and state being the exact same thing, you project that onto The West, thereby feeling that their Christianity and their politics are also inseparable.

So when a man in Los Angeles makes a derogatory movie about Mohammed, you think it was a state-sanctioned act, not understanding that The West holds a separation of church and state you have no category for.

Thus…..massive confusion on BOTH sides.

So I hope it’s clear now that their violence (Jihad) in defense of The Ummah is the same thing as our military violence (Jihad) in defense of our nation and/or our allies.

To our thinking, military violence and religion are SEPARATE.

To their thinking, military violence and religion are the SAME.

So I hope it’s clear now that to accuse Muslims of ‘religious’ extremist violence is not useful or helpful in any way.

And to argue the benefits of theocracy vs. separation of church and state is also useless.

Because violence is violence, whether it’s politically motivated (The West), or religio-politically motivated (Islam).

It’s all violence.

And so to gain ground in solutions to this mess, I hope this background helps move the dialogue in a more productive direction.

Because if we can understand each other’s background and starting points, then maybe we can begin to talk apples and apples, and stop talking apples and oranges.

The dialogue needs to change.

Thanks for listening.