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Archive for December, 2007

Various thoughts on Christianity

Posted by Chance on December 27, 2007

Various people look at Christianity from different lens. One viewpoint focuses on personal righteousness, a perspective that believes in salvation through grace, but focuses on becoming a good and holy person nonetheless. Your typical Baptist has this viewpoint. Critics say that this viewpoint negates the whole love aspect – being kind to others and being careful not to judge sinners. Another viewpoint is that which focuses on the love aspect – loving and serving others and not judging others. Critics say that this view of Christianity may tend to neglect the aspect of personal righteousness.

I do think that a complete picture of Christianity – that is, a view of who Jesus is (hopefully) has all these aspects. It focuses on becoming more like Christ. That involves being free from sin but also serving others. Proclaiming God’s truth yet not being quick to judge. James 1:27 says this

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

I believe that an accurate depiction of Jesus makes us uncomfortable in one way or another. If Jesus doesn’t make us nervous, then maybe we need to rethink our depiction of him.

Sometimes it’s hard to know where the line is. How do we love the sinner without condoning his/her behavior? How do we dine with sinners without falling into sin ourselves?

I often hear of Jesus’ message being portrayed as that of a man speaking truth to power. And I think this aspect of the message is true and is overlooked by many. This isn’t an easy message for many to hear. But for many, it is an easy message, especially if you aren’t rich and powerful. It is easy for us to say “Watch out you rich, you powerful, Jesus is coming!” In other words, watch out, you other people. And it’s not just true in this case. We always think that others truly need to incorporate the message that Jesus is preaching. We focus on the parts of Jesus that makes him easier to digest, whether it be his call for personal righteousness, or him challenging the rich, the establishment. But he has a message for all of us. I believe that Jesus, in one way or another, challenges us, not just the other people.

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On "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas"

Posted by Chance on December 20, 2007

This topic has probably already been beaten to death, but I wanted to add my two cents. First of all, do I think stores should be afraid to say “Merry Christmas”? No, not really. I don’t think most people care. I could be wrong, but I think it is people who actually celebrate Christmas who are afraid of offending people who have caused the change, rather than anybody being offended.

However, these places are private businesses. They have the right to say whatever they want.

I wanted to bring this up because we often talk about how Christmas is being silenced, or how there is a “War on Christmas”. But in cases like this, we aren’t being silenced. We have our freedom of speech and businesses have theirs.

I think as Christians we should be slow to bring out the persecution card. We have it so much better than those in other countries who participate in underground Bible studies and where missionaries have to be undercover.

Things are different in a public institution, where actual oppression can take place. These institutions, such as public schools, I believe can focus too much on the establishment clause of the First Amendment and not the free exercise clause.

But even in these cases I think we should be slow to bring out the martyr card. I just don’t think a “woe is me” attitude is flattering for Christians, as with any other group that may see themselves as victims. I think Christians should fight for religious freedom and stand up when they see somebody’s religious expression being silenced, but I think we just sometimes need to do it with a different attitude. We should focus on the freedom aspect and not the persecution aspect – but I admit I don’t know where the line is.

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I’m just not buying what they’re selling

Posted by Chance on December 13, 2007

Let’s look at who Jesus was and what he valued. In many ways he embodied what is the “conservative morality”. He echoed the Old Testaments views on the family and had absolute standards of sexual morality (not saying liberals don’t view these things as important, I am just speaking in terms of emphasis). And despite what many people say, I do believe that Jesus affirmed the two-fold path of “one man, one woman” or celibacy.

But Jesus also echoed many things that liberals consider important. Love your enemy. Love the sinners. Turn the other cheek. Help the poor and needy.

I want to focus on the last bit. Liberals have embraced the idea of helping the less fortunate, and that is very commendable. Christians in general seem to focus on keeping the letters of the law but forgetting the points of mercy and justice. In some aspects, the liberals have embraced the proper attitude concerning the poor. It’s about giving people what they need, not what they deserve. Conservatives tend to focus on the work ethic aspect and whether or not somebody deserves to be helped.

But I still disagree with liberals on one important thing, the vital thing when it comes to the political. That thing is the role of government. For many of the Christian left, the government is the primary means for carrying out the work of God’s kingdom.

I disagree with this method for philosophical and utilitarian reasons. Concerning the philosophical, Christianity is a spiritual viewpoint focused on free will, and it is about relationships. We enter into a relationship with Christ out of our free will. Think about evangelism. Trying to force conversions is self-defeating. Also, Jesus’ mission did not concern the political. Granted, he had a certain goal at the time, but he didn’t really irritate the political establishment by himself. It took the religious leaders to motivate his execution.

In addition, the Bible focuses on voluntary giving. Also, Jesus ministered to the spiritual as well as the physical. That’s something not easily done by government services.

In my own opinion, I just believe charity is more effective than government programs. The giver has an opportunity to willfully choose to do something for other people, and the receiver sees the gift as just that, and not an entitlement.

I am not saying there is no room for government programs. And reasonable people can disagree on where government should get involved. But the Christian left have to reason and defend their position that government involvement is a given. I think when we look to the words of Jesus and try to further his kingdom, we should be focusing on the sphere of life outside government.

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