Expand your horizons–could he be YOUR neighbor?

topographic map of India

Image via Wikipedia

These photos were taken by Thomas Kelley in Nepal and India.  I got them over at huffingtonpost.com.   I may have to take them down, but looking at these photos there made me think about how sheltered I am and about how inwardly focused I am.

The human being and the community of human beings are marvels.  I marvel at our ability to walk, how God made our hands and feet,  but most prized of all–our brains, which allow men and women to express themselves in such vastly different ways.   These pictures remind me of that–wow!!!  What creativity we have.  Look!   These men are human too, but can we appreciate them for who they are?  can we even love them because they are a part of the human community–the global human community that we all are a part of. Continue reading

Atheists in America and Atheists in Sweden

There are many ex-Christians here on the internet relating their former Christian experiences.   But, as a Christian,  I’m sorry,  I see gaps/disconnects in their explanations of what they believed.   Even the very best one of them, Dr. Bart Ehrman, is illogical at times.

For instance I just read Ms Kirby:

Until 2003 I was a devout Christian. And I mean devout. I believed absolutely, and my faith was central to my life at that time.  Various clergy thought I had a calling to “the ministry”; one even suggested I might have a vocation to be a nun. Now I am an atheist: the kind of atheist who is predictably referred to by religious apologists as “outspoken” or “militant.”  So what happened?

What happened was four little words:  “How do I know?”

“I believe absolutely”  what does that mean?  “Various clergy thought I had a calling,”  but Ms. Kirby what did you think, what were your thoughts about calling?

“How do I know?”  Ah, and have I, the author of this blog, had struggles, morally and intellectually, absolutely.  BUT, to the ‘how do I know’ issues of can I truly know that what is recorded in the Bible question, I have time and again got the answers to my questions.  Did I search in a corner where no one else has access to the information/data that I have? No!  The data that I have available to me is available to everyone else out there if they want it.  And, maybe that is the real question, what data do you want?  Are you willing to take it at face value?

You see,  there is data that backs faith in Jesus–not sure about data behind other’s claims.  I laugh at those famous atheists, Hitchens (I don’t laugh at his current situation), Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and others, who speak of faith and define it as blind faith–that is, something like “faith in faith” because they don’t believe there is any data to back any claims.  But,  there is data–lots of it and thus,  if Christians want them/need them, there are many “reasons” to believe based on this data.

Ms. Kirby titles another article on her “exodus” from faith: “Breaking out from the Prison of Religion.”  Okay, that is very interesting.  Makes me wonder if she really ever related to the Jesus that I know.  The One that said(translated from original): “I have come that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Or, that said: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

What was Jesus referring to?   If you put his statements in context it is clearer that we as human beings are “bound”–bound in many ways–mainly in our thinking.  Some of us don’t seek even our own good–much less the good of others, of our community.  No, we just want to do what we want to do and be left alone.  I can leave you alone but I have to say that is a sign and a symptom of what Jesus came to relieve us of.  The oppression of our own mental/spiritual state of narcissism that He referred to as sin.   Lots of people don’t like that word–I do because I have recognized that I have those characteristics.  I am narcissistic and selfish.  I need to be liberated from that.  Jesus has begun that process in me.  Am I there?  Absolutely not!!!!

So,  if your view is that you need to be liberated from prison,  you never were in touch with the real Jesus.   Jesus does not put people in prison–he liberates people from the prison of sin and religion.  Jesus words talk about liberation and freedom.  He is the real liberator Paula Kirby.

In Mark 7  He talks about what is clean.   He was throwing everything he could in the face of the Jewish religious heirarchy.  If you read John 8 and John 10, you see that it was the religion establishment that wanted to stone him on the spot.   So,  don’t give me anything close to saying that Jesus imprisoned you and you did not say that in your article–only that religion imprisons.  Well,  you are right.  I have to agree.  Religion does imprison but Jesus liberates.

Now,  before you get the wrong idea–I go to church–a great church.
All that a great church is,  is a community of people having some of the
greatest values in the world that you can have–in common.   Do some
churches represent religion?  Yes.  But if you find one like mine you
can be liberated from religion.  “Whom the son sets free is free indeed.”

There is only one true church–made up of the followers of Jesus.  But there are many “churches on the corner”, there are physical structures where people gather.  That does not make those gatherings a part of THE church.  THE church is not governed or characterized by physical structures or physical boundaries.

Take these notes:

According to the survey, 15 percent of church members they are atheists, while a quarter of Swedish Church members identify themselves as agnostic.

The younger the members, the more likely they are to be atheists or agnostics.

Bromander pointed out that there is no requirement that church members believe in Jesus or any particular religious figure.

This data is from a survey of the Church of Sweden.  But are these people part of THE church.  The 15% are not.

Only 15 percent of members of the Church of Sweden say they believe in Jesus, and an equal number claim to be atheists according to the results of a recent survey.

Okay, that quote makes the point even more graphically.  15% of the church of Sweden are atheists.  Only 15% actually believe in Jesus Christ.   I hope the latter 15% are truly followers of Jesus but it is hard to know because they are with openly agnostic and atheist “members.”   Church membership does not make one a follower of Jesus obviously.   Knowing Jesus makes you a follower of Jesus.  Yes, knowing Jesus, knowing Jesus is sometime intimate.  It is not intellectual assent to his claims.  Knowing Jesus is something so intimate, that if you know Him, that’s not something that is going to ever be in the past tense.

So, yes faith in Jesus has an intellectual component but there is a faith component as well.   It is the faith component that brings you into a relationship with Him; that creates the intimacy such that once there, never could not knowing Him be a viable position.