Category Archives: faith

When A Christian Is Not a Christian

     To wear any label, a person must have at least some of the traits or characteristics that are associated with that label.  I have said that I am trying to become a libertarian, because there are still some libertarian views that I am reluctant to accept, but probably moving toward.  I see myself as more libertarian than anything else, so I wear the label and wear it happily.

     When I was in high school I met a girl at a party whose name has sunk into a vast ocean of amnesia.  I remember the silver cross that she was wearing, though.  I said, “I see that you are wearing a cross.  Are you a Christian?”

     “Yes,” she answered, “but a liberal one.”

     I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

     “So do you go to church?” I asked.

     “I prefer to enjoy God’s creation and just feel grateful for the blessings that God has given the world.”

     “Do you pray?” I asked.

     “I meditate.  I try to receive positive energy from the universe and send positive thoughts out.”

     “Do you read the Bible?” I asked.

     “I sometimes look to the Bible for wisdom, but I prefer to gain wisdom from experience.  The Bible was written long ago; we need more up to date wisdom for today.”

     “But you do believe that Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins, right?” I finally asked.

     “Well, there are many paths to God.  Jesus is one of them.  I think that he set a good example and taught some good principles.  I regard his death on the cross as a clash between institutional religions and a radically spiritual person.”

     “Okay,” I replied.  “What else could I say?”

     It seems to me that when a person departs too far from anything intrinsic to a certain philosophy or belief system, that person has actually adopted a different system altogether.  Christians go to a church of some kind, because the Bible directs us to assemble together as a group for corporate worship and mutual support.  Christians pray, because Jesus set an example of praying and taught us to pray, and prayer is actually speaking to God–not just thinking good thoughts.  Christians read the Bible, because they regard it as God’s Word or at least as a really good spiritual guidebook.  Christians regard Jesus as more than just a good example or a masterful teacher.  In fact, there is no choice on that issue, since Jesus presented himself as more.

     I recognize that there are liberal Christians–liberal in theology or left-leaning in politics or both.  I accept them as my brothers and sisters, as long as they hold to the basic tenets of the Christian faith and practice some of the traditional Christian practices.  However, when a person does nothing that Christians do or believes nothing that Christians believe, it would be a kindness to everyone, including the person in question to recognize that he or she is not really a Christian.

Global Warming or Climate Change?

     I have been saying it for a long time. If I am to believe in global warming, then I first have to see proof that termperatrues around the world are going up.

     According to a report by Gerald Traufetter, temperatures have not been going up, and climatologists do not agree on why that is so.

     I wonder if that is why they have chosen to talk about “climate change” now instead of “global warming.”  Of course, if they were wrong about global warming, what else are they wrong about?

     Or have the last ten years or so been a temporary reprieve, and the real warming is still to come?

     In the spirit of making predictions about the future, I predict that someday people will look back and wonder how they could have been so gullible.  I think they will wonder why they believed a prediction as shaky as any psychics, all the while calling it “science.”

Getting a Handle on Authenticity

     Have you gotten on the Authenticity bandwagon yet? I tend to dislike any bandwagon, but this one is more egregious then some of the others in my opinion.  In politics it means hiring a consultant or two to tell you what to wear, what buzzwords to say, and the exact moments to smile.  In music it seems to mean adopting a slightly new style to replace the old style that consumers are tired of–in order to have the next big hit.  In twenty-something culture it seems to mean wearing the same clothes and speaking the same lingo as other twenty-somethings–in order to be true to oneself. 

     In other words, authenticity means being inauthentic.  Existentialists must roll their eyes when they hear the word used that way.

     It’s not a new phenomenon.  Whether you “march to the beat of a  different drummer” or you “know where it’s at” or  you call yourself “authentic,” it all boils down to the same thing.  You are just like all those other people who are adopting the latest trends and fads in order to be authentic, too.

     I’m reading a book called Blue Like Jazz by  Donald Miller. It is an interesting book, although I am having a hard time relating to it, because Mr. Miller was young when he wrote it and I am middle-aged.    I told one of my twenty-something Christian friends, who has read Blue Like Jazz, that I am too old for that book.  He said that his father-in-law had made the same comment.  Then my young friend said, “The thing I like about the book is that the author is authentic.”

     The book is written in that rambling and disjointed manner that now passes for “style.” In my day we called it incoherent or sloppy. It is the literary equivalent of those TV shows in which the camera bounces up and down and flits about.  In the old days camera operators tried to ensure that they kept it steady.  Likewise, writers in the old days tried to connect one sentence to another and to devolop a theme across several coherent paragraphs.  Mr. Miller is too hip to do that, apparently.

     He is too hip to write metaphors and similes that make sense.  The title phrase, for example, makes no sense to me.  It occurs in a passage in which Miller describes the sky as being “blue like jazz.”  Does he have synesthesia?  It seems more likely that he has one of those sets of magnets with words on them that you can play with on the refrigerator–any two random words can make a clever figure of speech.  (I’m looking around me for a really clever example.  How about “pure like a telephone”?)

     Miller practices Christian spirituality rather than Christianity, though I still don’t really see how the two are different.  It’s like the hundreds of denominations who claim to be exclusively practicing “biblical Christianity.”  What do they suppose all the others think they are doing?  Miller judges evangelicals that are my age because we are. . .well. . .too judgmental.  He sort-of, kind-of believes in Jesus in a “Jesus is all right with me, Dude” way. 

     I could be completely wrong about everything I wrote in that last paragraph, since, as I said, I don’t quite understand everything in the book.  I think I am too old.  If Mr. Miller is an authentic Christian, as I hope I am, he will forgive me.

     I tried to imagine what my young friend meant when he said that Miller is authentic.  I don’t think my friend has verified that the author really thinks and does everything he wrote in the book.  I don’t think that he has confirmed that the book is factually accurate.  So what does it mean that Donald Miller is authentic?  I think it means that he is (1) appealing to people who are in their 20′s and 30′s and  (2) upsetting people in their 40′s and 50′s and (3) sounding like all the other people in the Emergent Chruch and Authentic Christianity movements. 

     Don’t misunderstand me.  Perhaps Donald Miller is exactly what he portrays himself to be.   He probably is.   Perhaps he has written his honest-to-goodness thoughts and feelings and accurately presented facts in his book.  Maybe he is the genuine and original article and all the other people in his movement are the imitators.  Or maybe it’s just a coincidence that all those young emergent Christians with spiked hair and leather chokers and tatoos and piercings and flip-flops are true to themselves by being identical to each other. 

     The writer of Ecclesaistes said that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  How true!  I remember the radical young Jesus People of the 1960′s.  Now they are gray-haired and have children and even grandchildren.  They own houses and minivans and sit on committees and invest in mutual funds.  Miller’s day is coming.  Some young writer of the future will put him in his place.  Then maybe he will chuckle at his younger self, and maybe I will, too.