Over the last two months or so I’ve been attending a weekly Bible study with a group of men at my local coffee shop (Yes, they all know I’m an atheist) and one of the recurring themes we’ve been going over in our study is the purpose, structure, and call of the Christian Church as established and described in the New Testament Epistles. Last week I mentioned to the group that it was worth noting that when Paul wrote an Epistle to a group of believers he wrote it to “THE Church at (Thessalonica, Phillipi, Collosae, etc)” as opposed to “The Second Baptist Church on 4th Avenue”. I think this not only highlights a problem with the modern church when compared to the Church of the Bible – but also a slap in the face to the ideas of charity and caring for widows and orphans (James 1:17).
I always find it quite humorous and frustrating, when using verses from the Bible in my discussions with Christians, the frequency in which I’m accused of taking a verse “out of context”. This happens often and it usually comes from those that haven’t spent 1/10th of the time I have studying the Bible and earnestly seeking to understand its context, the accusation of my faulty context is often one made in blind faith about my understanding.
I like to discuss religion and ask difficult questions about faith. I like to ask people questions that I found myself asking not too long ago, not to make people uncomfortable, but to normalize the processes of doubt and skepticism and to challenge concepts too easily assumed to be true. Sad few understand this, most believe that my goal is to simply debate and argue but this has never been the case. I’d like to make the case that not only am I doing the Christian faith a great service, I’m holding the believer to the standards and expectations set forth in the New Testament.
“I don’t have to defend my faith to you,” or “this is what I believe because the Bible says so, take it or leave it” are common objections I hear – occasionally someone with a high regard for his or her intellect will point out that by discussing religion with me they are “casting pearls before swine“, believe me when I say that I know what that feels like and discussing matters of faith with unbelievers isn’t what is being objected to here.
Twice in the last three weeks I’ve been witness to two different Christians in group settings openly ridiculing atheists and science. I’ve also in the past seen believers ridicule other believers of a different sort, a double standard by my book.
The first was at my favorite coffee shop, I was there early in the morning and a group of 12 or so men were having a Bible study. I was a little early for work so I decided to sit down for a bit and finish reading The Blind Watchmaker. I overheard one particular gentleman comparing any non-christian with dogs by saying that he expected bad behavior from non-believers and other faiths because that’s just who they are just like he expected a dog to lick his behind. The same gentleman later said, “What takes more faith; believing that we crawled out of a swamp, or that god created us?” to much agreement from the group.
In this situation I patiently held my tongue, though I couldn’t help but shake my head in disgust. I did later send an email to one of the participants that I happened to know, and last week I attended the study myself. Turns out these guys are really nice, were open to my discussion points on the parts of the Bible they were discussing, and welcomed me into the group very openly. I’ll continue attending. (I do intend to discuss their offenses eventually and write about this entire experience here on the blog.)
The second offense was from a guest pastor that held a moment of reflection at an event I volunteer for every couple months, a live music show that benefits my local arts guild. The pastors first words were a quote of Psalms 14:1, “The Fool hath said in his heart, there is no god”. He continued to deliver a plea for salvation at a clearly secular event. I’ve yet to email this gentleman but I intend to explain that he need not pity this fool.
The point I’m trying to get to is that for some reason it’s ok to make fun of people and beliefs that aren’t your own in the Christian world and to even do so in a public setting, often with the assumption that those beliefs are so rare in your community that there won’t be anyone particularly offended by such things (and for those few that are, well – obviously they deserve it).
I know it’s an unpopular idea and somehow it’s a surprise to most Christians today but the early Christian church was an organization with Communism at it’s core.
The book of Acts is replete with references to communal life, there is no question that the Book of Acts describes a decidedly communist church with verses like this one:
All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
When I was a Christian this verse along with many others that support the idea of a Communist church led my political ideals which eventually led me to become a member of the Socialist Party USA. It was at this point that I recognized the disparity between what I see as a clear mandate from the Bible and what the modern Christian church actually puts into practice.
I’m going to start a new series of posts called “Dear Church” , this will be where I’ll put all my frustrated rants and pleadings with the members of the Christian faith I’ve left behind. This will be the first in this series.
Who Hijacked Your Faith?
If you’ve ever spent a lot of time around Christians, be they devoted or your standard backslider, it’s almost inevitable that a discussion about faith will eventually turn into someone making the claim that “Real Christians ®” would not do or say “x” – replacing “x” with whatever position they oppose and others eschew. The folks that say this often mean well but depend on the notion that their “True Faith ™ ” has been bastardized by what other Christians say and do and furthermore go on to explain why my understanding of their faith is flawed based on my experiences with these hijackers of their faith – meaning I can’t possibly make the rational or informed decision to reject that faith.
I just want to know, who hijacked your faith and what are you doing to fix it? Where did things go so wrong?