christian Not Christian

Exploring Contemporary Christianity

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Why You Don’t Need to Fear Donald Trump

Let’s face it, after a presidential election, roughly half of American voters are  thrilled and the other half are upset. Rarely is an election a run away anymore. Not since Reagan in 1984 (nearly 59%) has a president won with more than 55% of the popular vote.(http://ropercenter.cornell.edu/polls/us-elections/popular-vote/)  Most presidents are elected with 45-55% of the popular vote.

I feel compelled to mention the following:   Because of the negativity surrounding both major candidates, I decided about a month before the election (when I was still unsure of how I would be voting) that I would not tell anyone who I chose to vote for. Even my husband does not know who I voted for, and I plan to keep it that way. The way I see it, you have five basic choices in each presidential election; Democrat, Republican, Third Party, Write In, or stay home and not vote. In the six elections that I have voted in prior to this one, I have voted twice Democrat, twice Republican, once Third Party and once I wrote in a candidate. So, I am truly an independent voter and have no real affiliation for either major party.

I think what scares half of Americans after this election is the same thing that excites the other half- Trump is not a politician. For sure, he’s going to shake things up. That could go very badly or it could go very well, that remains to be seen. But he is going to be the next president and he needs to be given a chance.

Some things to consider:

  • No one runs this country alone. Trump is a smart, successful businessman. He’ll surround himself with people whose strengths will be utilized to their fullest.
  • His campaign promises will be tempered by sanity. He will adjust the extremes to align with reality. Cooler heads will prevail. “Campaigning is not governing” I have heard the pundits say.
  • Our country has weathered worse; we can withstand anything for four years.
  • The beauty of term limits and re-elections.  An opportunity for change presents itself every four years.

No president can change this country single-handedly in  four short years. President Obama made changes that  some weren’t happy with and now Trump will tweak them back a bit (Obamacare, for instance).  It’s all give and take, the pendulum swings left and right over time, as it should.  No one man or administration can bring our country down. Our foundation was built stronger than that and we are better than that as a people.

Incidentally, if Clinton had gotten in, most of what I just wrote would still apply.

Built-In Safeguards

If you think about the magnificent job our founding fathers did in crafting the constitution, the document our  country is based on, you will realize that they took into account so many possibilities of error, failure and circumstances and adjusted for it.  

Separation of powers, checks and balances, safeguards, the whole nine yards.  I don’t claim to understand it all, but it works, and it works well. We are still standing. We have survived good presidents, bad presidents, riots, protests, scandals, impeachments, the pendulum swinging left and right, and we still manage to be the greatest Republic on earth.

For a great website on our constitution visit http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/

No single administration, in four or eight years can destroy America. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values and  I believe that the Constitution was divinely inspired.  It is no secret that the founding fathers were men of faith and I believe that  God’s guidance played a role in these men coming  up with such a beautiful, complete, all-encompassing plan of governance. The foresight they had was astounding. So respected is this document, that over 100 countries have used our constitution as a template for their own.  (for a great website on our constitution visit  http://www.constitutionfacts.com/us-constitution-amendments/ )

Another good website to check out is by Tara Ross, a retired lawyer and author of several books on American history and government. She does an excellent job explaining the electoral college here:://www.taraross.com/2016/10/electoral-college-myth-8-candidates-who-lose-the-popular-vote-shouldnt-win-the-white-house-the-system-is-rigged/

Come back next time for part II on this topic

Who Are You Praying for On Election Day?

As Christians, we all know how important prayer is. We pray mostly small, intimate prayers. Prayers about our own lives, our spouses and kids, our  jobs, our finances, our own relationships and then, for the needs of those around us, our families,  friends, acquaintances,  co-workers.

But how many of us go outside our intimate circle and pray for those we don’t know? How many of us really take time to regularly pray for society in general or American politics, for instance.  How many of us pray for our country regularly?  

I’ll be honest, I don’t.praying-man-silloutte

Or, at least, I haven’t until just this week when I was thinking…I wonder what God thinks about the mess we’re in today, in American politics?  I can’t even imagine which way he would want it to go. What does he think when he looks down on us, in this election year. How disappointed he must be in our behavior, attitude and reactions.  Is the average Christian right now praying for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton?  If you’re a Democrat are you praying for Trump?  If you’re a Republican are you praying for Clinton?

Jesus said to love God and love your neighbors and that all the commands and the prophets hang on these two.  But shortly after that, he said pray for those who persecute you. Many of us feel that it has come to that in politics. That the other side is ‘persecuting’ us.  

If your candidate doesn’t get in, what are you going to do for the next four year?  Complain, point the finger, sling insults and say see I told you so?  Is that what we’re called to as Christians?  Or are you going to pray for those who persecute you?  We are all in this together. It’s still my country, it’s still your country, either way.   No matter who gets in.  We’re still all on the same side,  we are still all Americans.  The office of the presidency should be respected no matter who is occupying it.  Whoever gets in will represent our country and if the ‘wrong’ person gets in, in your opinion, even more reason to pray for them.

Non- believers will say  “Oh, pray, pray, pray, you’re going to sit in your little prayer huddles and pray and you think that does something –  Well, it doesn’t ”    and you know, I understand that viewpoint.  Three years ago that was my viewpoint – quit wasting your time praying and Do something.  Well I think the ideal lies, as it usually does, somewhere in between.

To just sit and pray is not enough and to do, do, do, without prayer and asking for God’s guidance is not enough either.  So if the ‘wrong’ person gets in, we really, more than ever, need pray and then to mobilize and  do something. We need to motivate even more so if our guy or gal didn’t get in. Pray, yes. But maybe spend some of the time that we use spouting off on social media to write our congressman about a specific issue that hits close to home. Or contact your party’s local  chapter to see what they recommend you do to help and to show your support. It seems like posting on social media satisfies the need to make our voices heard without following it up with any action. There is a false sense of accomplishment.

The concept of praying for your opponents applies in other areas of our lives as well. Are feminists praying for sexists, are the more tolerant praying for the more bigoted, are cops praying for criminals, are those who love praying for those who hate?  Are liberals and conservatives praying for each other? Or are we all just hating whoever doesn’t agree with us?  

We are not going to change another person’s heart by insisting that they see things our way.  Only truth spoken in love can change someone’s heart. We need to stop trying to force our will onto other people. No matter how right you are or how right you think you are, you’re not  going to change someone else by spewing hatred, by demanding that they’re wrong and  you’re right.  Only love is going to change someone’s heart. and it’s not simply love that we possess that can do it.  It’s tapping into the power of God’s love that changes hearts and minds.

God uses us to communicate His love. His power is  in  us. And the best way to tap into the power of God’s love is through prayer.

If you want to change hearts and minds, ask God, in prayer, to help you speak His truth, in love.

Do you believe that prayer can benefit our political system and society at large?

Loving Your Enemies, Praying for Your Adversaries

So, as Christians, in today’s society, we are often thought to be judgemental, hypocritical and homophobic. But what are Christian philosophies, really?

Well, at the very heart of the Christian philosophy of how we should believe and behave are 5 words. And Jesus said them:

Love God… Love your neighbor… (paraphrased from Lk 10:27, Mt 22:37-39, Mk 12:30-31 )

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Simple idea, but not always easy to accomplish. And later Jesus added that we should pray for our adversaries.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, Mt 5:44

Hmph. What a concept.

Imagine that. Praying for your enemies. Is anyone out there praying  for ISIS? Are any Democrats praying for Republicans or vice versa?   Are Christians praying for those who are pro choice and pro death penalty? And what about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – are their Christian detractors praying for them, or simply complaining about them and insulting them and criticizing them?

Imagine if each one of us, no matter what ‘side’ we are on, no matter our beliefs, convictions, propensities or affiliations… what if we decided to pray for our enemies and our opponents?  And they for us?

Oh my gosh.  What would happen?

blog-praying-hands

 

You don’t have to feel love for them, necessarily, at the get-go.  Just maybe don’t hate them. And then pray for them.  How radical is that?  What could change?

At the very least, praying for someone persecuting you can bring you a measure of peace. Giving the problem over to God, acknowledging that fighting back is not going to solve anything, casting your cares unto God, can bring immense relief.

To be clear, in a physically violent situation, self defense is warranted. I’m not advocating our military put down their weapons and pray instead. Or that if you are being physically threatened, you should not defend yourself any way you can. I am referring more to the arguing, the bickering, the slander and meanness especially as seen in the atmosphere of our current election process. Friends are becoming foes over serious disagreements on policy and social issues and I am suggesting we might do well, instead to pray for a change of heart for those we disagree with.

Jesus was, really, the most radical of all in introducing this new philosophy.  He said don’t fight your enemies. Pray for them. He had a modest upbringing and grew to be a humble servant, and a benevolent, forgiving King.  In those days, he was as radical as they came.  No one expected someone like him. The Israelites were praying for a warrior to come fight their battle. But Jesus came in peace, with peace.  AS peace. Strewing peace in his wake wherever he went.  Jesus said    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…”  Jn 14:27     He prayed for his enemies and he held his peace. It’s no coincidence, I think, that these two things went hand in hand.

To sum it up:  Praying for -instead of fighting-  your enemies  =  increased peace in your life.

And who couldn’t use more of that?

For a more in-depth look at what the bible has to say about peace visit   http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2013/08/31/top-10-bible-verses-about-peace-with-commentary/

 

What do you think:

Can approaching hatred and opposition with peace and prayer really work?

Doing Christianity

 

So, we want to “Do” Christian, not just “Be” Christian. But what does this mean? How do we know exactly what we are meant to do?

I don’t think God is picky. I think if we operate out of attempting to fulfill His will with whatever gifts and talents He gave us, and in accordance with the desires of our heart, (providing it doesn’t go against any biblical principles), and it helps people, I really  think we are given considerable leeway. That’s why God added free will to the whole equation.

Now, to be sure, some have been given ‘direct orders’ or a Word from God to do a certain thing. Of course, that’s a no-brainer. I’m talking about the rest of us, who sort of flounder around looking for – and worse yet, waiting for- some specific call, some sign, something etched in stone, that directs us toward our purpose. Hey, that may happen, but until it does, I think we are called to get busy doing good wherever, whenever and however we can.

 

I think we make things more difficult than they have to be. If we follow our heart and do our best to do good and serve others, it’ll be pretty hard to mess it up. And hey, if you are totally wrong, don’t worry, God will stop you. He will redirect your steps.

 

Problem is, He can’t redirect our steps if we are standing still. If you are not moving he can’t help you back onto the right path. We must first make attempts to do His will, then have faith that He will  make it work. I heard a preacher once say ‘In revealing His will  for your life, God will not give you steps 1 through 10. He’ll give you step 1 and if you step out in faith and obedience, He’ll give you the next step.’     #trustHim

 

Another thing to consider when trying to follow God’s plan:  Doing God’s will should not be drudgery! You can enjoy it! In fact, I think it is a built-in by-product of doing His will. So many people, after serving others are surprised and delighted to find that they feel they got more joy, more satisfaction, and more happiness out of the experience than those they served.

 

Plus, there’s that verse from Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… sometimes paraphrased as ‘let peace be your umpire’.  Meaning, when making a decision, do not do the thing that upsets, or angers you, or causes anxiety. Do what feels most peaceful. The decision you are most comfortable with. In the secular world, this is often called ‘following your heart’.

 

 

So, if you’re doing something you love, having fun,  and feeling joy, fulfillment and peace, while helping  someone with your gifts and talents…you just may be doing  God’s will  and not even know it!

 

We’ll revisit this topic periodically, please feel free to relate your story, or your opinion on this subject in the comments section.

 

Add your voice to the conversation by answering the question:


What one little (or big) thing are you doing  to help someone that can’t really pay you back or ‘owe you one’ ?

What’s a Christian to Do? Part II

 

…So what if they don’t think being a Christian requires the complete package, the total set of beliefs? Meet them where they’re at on their journey. At least they think Jesus was a cool guy and he taught about love. We can all agree on that!

Isn’t that a good enough place to start?

Imposing all of our theology and all of our rhetoric on them from the get go is not exactly working.  For a great example of this, check out this  blog post from a couple of years ago. It is a disheartening, uncomfortable, and all too familiar story from a non-believer. If you are honest, you may see a bit of yourself in it :   http://thomrainer.com/2013/06/what-do-non-christians-really-think-of-us/  

If you’ve just read it…ouch, right?  I think in our exuberance and excitement, we forget where we were before becoming believers. We forget how annoying someone is who is so sure of their beliefs that no one else’s matter. So confident we are right,  we just must convince everyone around us of it.

So, really, the answer is  in  the question posed at the top of this page.

What is a Christian to Do?

Well, a follower of Jesus is to ‘Do’ christianity. Christianity is not just some nice label, some nice title we trot out when someone asks us about our faith.  And it’s not simply an adjective to plant in front of your job description either, Christian musician, Christian actor, Christian parent, teacher, coach etc.

Maybe instead of a noun or an adjective, the word  ‘christian’ is better thought of as a verb. Like:

‘He was in financial trouble, but his neighbors ‘christianed’ him into solvency’  and ‘The little girl was being bullied on the playground, but a classmate ‘christianed’ her aggressors and now they are all friends.’  and  ‘Her husband became distant and lost interest in their marriage, but she ‘christianed’ him and now their family is stronger than ever.’   

You know, like that.  

 

So, as a verb, christian can mean – help, assist, encourage, accept, forgive, strengthen, love –  how radical would it be if we could get those who have had a bad experience with someone claiming to be Christian, to actually believe that this is what true Christianity is all  about?

Next time, some practical thoughts on ‘doing’ Christianity.

 

Please join the conversation by answering below in Comments:

If you agree that ‘being’ Christian is not enough,

What have you done, what are you doing, or what might you do?

What’s a Christian to Do?

Ok, so far, we’ve given up the capital ‘C’ attitude of Christianity, we’re agreed that humility should be strongly considered, as  followers of Christ and we know many non-believers think we are judgemental, hypocritical and homophobic.  So, now what?  Assuming this alarms you, assuming you would like people outside the faith to at least like us, give Christianity a chance, maybe…

Where do we go from here?

 On more than one occasion (ok, two, actually), many years ago – in complete innocence and ignorance, and not meaning to offend anyone at all – you guessed it, I offended someone. This was long ago, when my own faith was tentative at best, and I had little knowledge of Jesus, the Bible, general Christianity, any of that.  In response to a conversation, each time, that indicated they thought Jesus was a great teacher and and prophet and an all-around cool guy, just not the Son of God, I said “Oh, so you are not a Christian?”

This was highly offensive both times I said it. Since then I have learned that many people have many different ideas about what Christianity means.

So to me it is clear that non-believers don’t define the word ‘Christian’ the same way that we do.  I mean, I know we can fight it, try to educate everyone that ‘Christian’ indicates that you are a follower of Jesus and His teachings – which include that he is the Son of God and part of the Trinity. But maybe when we use the often proclaimed phrase  “God meets us where we’re at” (misplaced preposition duly noted), well maybe we take a page out of that book on this, and meet those outside the faith ‘where they’re at’.

So what if they don’t think being a Christian requires the complete package, the total set of beliefs? Meet them where they’re at on their journey. At least they think Jesus was a cool guy and he taught about love. We can all agree on that!

Isn’t that a good enough place to start?

Come back next time for part two of ‘What’s a Christian to do?’

 

Is “Christian” a Noun or an Adjective? Or Something Else Entirely…

So, I promised a more thorough look at why I chose the name ‘christian Not Christian.’

The idea first came when I heard someone on TV describe himself as a Christian. He said something like  ‘ I don’t like when people use the word “Christian” as an adjective, like saying I am a Christian actor, or a Christian musician.  I think ‘Christian’ is a noun. I’m not a ‘Christian’ anything, I am just a Christian.’

And I thought, wow, I’m not sure that perspective helps to invite non-believers in.  I mean, what does calling yourself a Christian, in today’s culture, even mean anymore?  Inside the faith, we know what being a Christian is supposed to mean. But outside the faith?  When asked to describe Christians using one word, one recent survey recorded “judgemental” as the most common answer, with ‘hypocritical’ and ‘anti-homosexual’ close behind.

 

So, clearly, there is a disconnect between Christ followers and those outside the faith that begins with the very definition of what a Christian even is.  

 

So, why ‘christian Not Christian’?

 

Of course the name Christ should be capitalized, I’m  just not sure, as his followers, we should need that same designation.  Aren’t we called to be humble, anyway?  In an act of humility, can we give up the capital C and stop scaring the children!??

I’m not saying never capitalize this word.  Let’s be practical.  lt is a proper name.  But I am saying let’s stop acting like we think WE should be capitalized. Like that’s all being a ‘Christian’ is all about… Being a Christian. Maybe Christianity is less about nouns and adjectives and more about ‘verbing’ our way into society’s hearts and minds.

 

Now, some of you will take offense.  But you would be missing the point.  The very people we profess to be trying to draw into discipleship,  are being turned off by a word that, it would seem, was never meant to represent the followers of Jesus Christ, anyway. (more about that another time).

 

In a nod to humility, to accessibility, and to getting someone outside the faith, to begin to peer inside…can we let go of just a little bit of the smugness that others sometimes perceive in us? Maybe giving up that capital ‘C’  – at least in our own minds – is a step in the direction of the humility that we are called to –  as followers of the most humble, selfless, servant-minded human being that ever lived.

 

I don’t think we  actually need to Write ‘christian’, not ‘Christian’.  But, maybe… let’s Think it.

 

Please join the conversation and answer one of the following questions:

If you’re a Christian, what is one way people around you can tell?

        If you are not a Christian, what would  be the best way – specifically-         for us to show ourselves to be followers of Christ?

Welcome to christian Not Christian

 

Hello and Welcome!

My name is Sherry and in this blog we’ll be exploring  topics concerning faith and Christianity.  I hope to help change the negative connotation sometimes associated with the word  ‘Christian’ and shed light on what followers of Jesus are really about.  I plan to post once a week and I welcome your comments, opinions and observations.  I would love for this to be an interactive forum so that we can all share, learn, and encourage one another.

I am no expert on any of this – far from it.  Born and raised Catholic, I was pretty much coasting in the spiritual department, but over the last three years, life-altering circumstances have driven me to explore my faith and study Scripture, to read and listen to many  scholars interpret the Bible, to examine who  God is and question how Jesus fits into the whole equation, and ultimately, to learn a ton of stuff I never knew about my own faith.

 

Why  “christian not Christian?”   One reason this name came to me is, it’s a play on the phrase  ‘sorry, not sorry.’  Have you heard it?  It’s like ‘I’m sorry that I’m not sorry’  when you feel strongly about something, or when you’ve done something to slightly inconvenience or offend someone.

 

This phrase rings true partly because I get tired of feeling like I have to apologize for being christian.  I mean, I get  it. I know.  In light of what some Christians have done in the past, and how some continue to behave today, I know that many don’t really Represent when it comes to the true meaning of Christianity. But, honestly, it gets wearisome feeling like you have to answer for what others have done – erroneously, for sure – ‘in the Name of Jesus’.

 

The phrase ‘christian not Christian’ applies also because I know, when  asked about our faith or spirituality, some of us feel like we need to answer with,   “Hey, I’m christian, but not ‘Christian’,  you know?”   – complete with air quotes and eye roll. Common misconceptions  about Christianity, coupled with media portrayal,  and some actual Christians’ behavior sometimes necessitates this response. 

But these are not the primary reasons for the name.

More on where ‘christian Not Christian’ came from, next time.

For now, please join the conversation and comment with your answer to this question:  

What one thought or phrase comes to mind when you hear the word “Christian”  and why?

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