Tag Archive: Religion

From Part 1 it should be obvious that i’m a fan of fully exercised diversity (above and beyond a lip service to the societal value of diversity).  So, what is brilliant about it?  Why did i choose the word ‘brilliance’ to describe diversity?

Well, brilliant has a couple meanings.  One is glittering or resplendent and another is displaying mental keenness or striking intelligence.  I believe rightly exercised diversity is brilliant in both senses.  It is ‘shining’ and it displays someone’s mental brilliance.  The latter of these, of course, begs the question “Whose mental brilliance?”

Well, that would need to apply to anyone who thought of the idea, but more so to whoever originated the idea.  Certainly there a lot of modern proponents of diversity, but what if we look back more than a few hundred years?  I don’t claim to know all of the people throughout history who might have proposed the value of diversity, but I do know of one who predates all modern philosophy and sociology.

The author of the biblical books of Romans, 1 Corinthians & Ephesians instructed Christians to value diversity about 2000 years ago.  This being the case, i’d like to propose that valuing diversity was God’s idea before we became ‘enlightened’ later in history.  (If you don’t buy that God is the source of the bible then either it was just Paul’s idea or some anonymous writer of these books fictitiously attributed to Paul, but still it is not just a modern idea!)

I think the passage that best illustrates my point is Ephesians 3:10.  This passage is fairly well known but usually taught out of context.  Here the author says “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” Excellent so the church is supposed to display God’s wisdom – this would seem obvious to Christians already.  But what is the context?  He talks about a gospel and a mystery, and it would be easy to just assume he’s talking about the general gospel message and leave it at that.  But look more carefully at the context – what comes before and what comes after.  Especially verse 6 where he tells us straight out what the mystery is: “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” The mystery was that God was bringing ethnically and culturally diverse people TOGETHER through Jesus.

If that doesn’t make HOW God’s wisdom is to be displayed in the church clear enough by itself let’s put all of chapter 3 in context.  Chapter three starts off with ‘For this reason . . . ”  For what reason?  Clearly he’s building on what he just said before that which is:

For he himself [Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

And if this isn’t enough, what does Paul talk about in chapter 4 – the stuff that comes right after chapter 3?  He talks about unity and serving each other and diversity of talents and ministries and how God wants to use diverse people working together to make all of us stronger.

So, let’s get back to 3:10 – HOW is the church intended to demonstrate God’s wisdom?  Through it’s diversity AND unity at the same time!  Brilliant! God is wise.  But he wants to demonstrate this wisdom (at least in part) through diversity rightly and fully exercised.  The church is to be brilliant (resplendent, shining) in order to display God’s brilliance (amazing wisdom, dazzling intellect).

But this can’t happen if diverse people simply choose to live separately ‘in peace’, claiming to think diversity is important, but never actually sharing life with people who are different from themselves.  If we are to demonstrate God’s wisdom and experience all the benefits he designed we can’t just be diverse, we have to be diverse AND together.


How to miss reality in 2 easy steps

This isn’t really what i want to write about next, but it’s been plugging my cache.  So maybe if i get it out of the way I can get on to something else!

How to miss reality in 2 easy steps:

Step 1 – Adopt an ideology

And it doesn’t really matter which ideology.  It could be a religion, a political viewpoint, a cause (animal rights, environmentalism, poor children in third world countries, gun rights, etc.) . . .  Any ideology will do.  If you think your ideology is immune to contributing to a false view of reality then . . . wow, all i can say is try thinking harder.

Now i know many people think that having a particular ideology is, by itself, sufficient to ensure a skewed view of things.  But in my experience i’ve met people from a variety of viewpoints who still managed to have a pretty clear minded view of things.  They were able to tell when their ‘camp’ was making stuff up and when their viewpoint was based on evidence.  They were able to see the beneficial and the harmful in various views and perspectives.

So, if i’m not incorrect and having an ideology isn’t enough, missing reality also requires one to:

Step 2 – Listen only to approved, orthodox voices of your ideology and immediately discount any view coming from any other ideology

This is the “we are brilliant”  (or just as easily “we are righteous”) and “everyone else is dumb” view of the world.

That’s it.  In fact, that’s all that’s required.  Adopt an ideology, tune out everyone who doesn’t claim undying allegiance to your ideology, and PRESTO instant blindness.

It works (or i guess i should say doesn’t work!) in politics, and examples abound.

It works in religion (even within one religion w/ the denominational mess within Christianity, the Sunni-Shiite split in Islam, etc.).

It works in causes.

It can even work with genders if one becomes too gender-centric (ouch, that just hurt a bit – need to take my own medicine).

Now, here’s how to cure the problem in one easy step:

Choose to respect ALL people enough to actually make some effort to listen to them and evaluate their perspectives based on evidence, logic, and (dare I say it) generosity (Christians call this ‘grace’) rather than based on whether they come from your same ideological camp.

Choosing to listen more and speak less results in a clearer view of how things really are.

Underground Religion

True Christianity is an underground religion.  When socio-political situations exist which force Christians to ‘go underground’ all that remains of the religion is what it really is and really should be.  When Christianity is accepted, protected or (even worse) officially supported by any socio-political system, we people who make up any religion begin to add more and more ‘stuff’ on top of the basic tenets of that religion that hide the true nature of it.  And sometimes – even conflict with the true nature of it.  This stuff is what is most commonly referred to as the religious ‘institutions’.  We turn principles into rules & formulas, we turn spiritual counsel into required structures, we ‘enhance’ our religion with patterns and ‘solutions’ from the broader society, and we define and sub-define and sub define until all the wonder and mystery, much of the faith, and almost all of the creativity are buried.  Further, much of the power that is revealed through the bare bones truth of the religion when people MUST rely on it becomes buried and hidden by all the accoutrements and methods we have added to it in order to avoid having to risk fully relying on it.

But put us into a situation where we have to truly RISK something in order to live out our religion and it makes it much easier to distinguish the true nature of that religion from all of the junk we’ve laid on top of it.  Organization owned buildings and facilities are quickly seen as less than necessary.  Large, lavish, well produced gatherings as the luxuries they are (and sometimes self-indulgence for the leaders of such gatherings).  Requirements for formal seminary training and ordination by human religious institutions are seen as enhancements rather than core functions (though training and instruction would still be carried out with much energy).   Our tendency to divide up our fellowship into more and more particular groups of people and associate only with those we most closely agree with is clearly shown as the divide and be conquered foolishness it really is.

On the flip side, watching out for each other, spiritually and (much more often) materially supporting those who are under greater pressure than ourselves, living in constant prayer, diligently searching scripture for day to day guidance in small community based groups rather than relying on large libraries of preference based, denominationally approved ‘resources’ (or highly trained spiritual ‘experts’), and passing on the gospel through personal witness rather than depending on mass crusades, well known evangelists, or large public church ‘services’ to get the job done become obviously and immediately important.  Which, it should be obvious, is actually what we should have been doing all along . . . should be doing regardless of our socio-political situation.

I’ll likely write more on this again sometime, but for now I’ll summarize.  Christianity lives, even thrives, under persecution.  It tends to get flabby when accepted due in large part to the baggage we add to it that we end up mistaking for the religion itself.  What we need, as comfortable developed nation Christians, is to attempt to retain the essentials and mindset of the underground religion even when we are not forced under ground.  True Christianity is an underground religion.

Pledging Allegiance

So, am I the only one that finds it almost unbearably ironic that we’re making a big deal out of whether people are supposed to say the words ‘under God’ while they’re promising to be faithful to protect a piece of cloth?  I mean . . . really?!  Do we really believe that making people say the words ‘under God’ is by itself going to effect whether the USA is or is not a Christian nation?  What if they don’t mean it?  Isn’t that worse then not saying it at all?

Seriously, if the pledge of allegiance to the flag is that critical and the status of America is going to stand or fall on whether it is a religious as well as a patriotic pledge then shouldn’t we make not meaning ‘under God’ when you say it against the law?  Maybe we should be giving people lie detector tests and throwing those who don’t really mean ‘under God’ in jail?

I may be completely off my nut, but I don’t want people saying ‘under God’ unless they really choose to be ‘under God’.  And I certainly can’t see how it does anyone any good to require people who clearly don’t believe God exists to pretend like he does when they’re promising to live for a piece of cloth!

If God is that critical (and I am one of those who believe he is) then shouldn’t we who believe that be pledging allegiance to him?  Isn’t it, in fact, hazardous to be PROMISING unqualified allegiance to anything else?

(background noise is me preparing my stone-throwing armor for what is likely to ensue once I post this)

In our home group we’re in a chapter in the book “Renovation of the Heart” that deals with the importance of thinking, thinking well, and thinking in a disciplined manner.  It seems obvious but is worth restating – right thinking produces health and goodness while wrong thinking harms us and ultimately those around us.  If we want to be whole and live effectively we can’t get there without some effort invested in examining and realigning what we think.

One idea in particular came up in the group discussion (thanks Michelle!) which is so powerful that it bears re-emphasis, and I also wanted to share it with my Christian family at large:

When you get to the end of a day how do you THINK about whether you had a good day or a bad day? Think about it.

What is a good day?

What is a bad day?

When you or I say “I had a good day” or “I had a bad day” what do we mean? Let me offer a couple alternative ways of thinking about what makes a good day.

“Good Day” Option 1

I had a good day today because:

  • I got a lot done that I wanted to get done
  • Someone was kind to me
  • Someone encouraged me
  • Someone important to me did ‘well’ in some way
  • My favorite cause, team, political party, etc. ‘won’
  • I got to spend time doing what I like/enjoy
  • There was no stress
  • I had no pain
  • I got to spend time with people I like
  • I didn’t have to spend time with people I don’t like
  • Things went according to my plans

Now that would be a good day!  Seriously.  Isn’t that what we THINK about when we think about a good day?  Now . . . here’s an alternative.

“Good Day” Option 2

I had a good day today because:

  • I was alert for and took the opportunities I had to encourage others
  • I was alert for and took the opportunities I had to point people to Jesus
  • I spent the day WITH God not just FOR God; walking with him, talking with him, following his direction
  • The kingdom of God is more real today in my life and in the lives of those I interacted with
  • I had the privilege of suffering and self-sacrifice for a cause that is worth it
  • I had the privilege of really touching the life of another person today
  • I had the privilege of crying with someone else who is in pain today
  • I took the opportunity to rejoice with someone else’s victory today
  • I praised God today
  • The grace and power of God broke down the walls between me and someone I didn’t like
  • God loves me
  • God walked with me and Jesus lives in me
  • I know and understand God and my place in this world better today than I did yesterday
  • I was more obedient today – I was a good and faithful servant
  • Today went nothing like how I planned it! but exactly like God wanted it

What do you think of that day? Does our thinking need to be realigned?