Category Archives: anabaptist

Train up a child

Our children and grandchildren were homeschooled in loving, caring, academically challenging environments; so, I’m certainly not opposed to homeschooling. On the other hand, there is a strong homeschooling movement among conservative fundamentalist white evangelical Christians in America that is unbiblical and abusive. 

Parents are taught to inflict physical pain with their hands, with switches, wooden spoons, and belts on children beginning when they can crawl – placing objects they should not touch in front of them and hitting them when they try. This is done to “break the child’s will” because children are seen as born evil and rebellious. Children are corporally punished for the slightest perceived transgression throughout their childhoods. They are taught that public schools are evil bastions of anti-Christian indoctrination, that the government, educational system, and public libraries are controlled by elite people determined to destroy righteousness, and that America was founded by dedicated Christians who feared God. They are taught that guns are a God-given right, that science is not to be trusted (especially when it comes to vaccines, evolution, and environmentalism), and that women must submit to men.

Absolutely none of that is biblical. Those positions are based on cherry-picking verses out of the Old Testament and justified by ignoring the teachings of Jesus. Christians do not live by the laws of the Old Testament. We don’t stone or beat our children. 

Children are not born evil. They are created in the image and likeness of God, innocent. “Total depravity” is an invention of the Middle Ages. Yes, as we mature, we all sin; we all miss the mark. That’s why Jesus came. Because of the cross, sin is off the table – forgiven, gone forever. 

Christians do not believe or spread conspiracy theories. Science is not a threat to faith. All truth is God’s truth, whether that truth is found in a laboratory or in the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, Christians interpret all scripture in light of the teachings of Jesus. The New Testament trumps the Old; the red letters trump everything.

So, what did Jesus say about child-raising? How did Paul interpret what Jesus taught? 

  • “Invite the children to come to me; don’t prevent them.” 
  • “Come like a child… of such is the Kingdom of God.” 
  • “It would be better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be thrown into the sea than to offend one God’s little ones.” 
  • “Fathers, do not provoke your children, but raise them in they way they should go.” (The way theyshould go – not the way you think they ought to go.) 
  • “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is gentle.”

Children are indeed a gift. Treasure them. Love them. You cannot love a child too much. help them discover the glories of creation. Teach them to think critically. Let go of conspiracies. Embrace the wonders science has discovered. Be tender and kind. Support public schools. Trust educators. Stop banning books and trying to rewrite history. Truth sets people free. Saturate your home with unconditional love, mercy and grace. Get out of your silo. Love God. Love others (all of them). Love the natural creation. Love yourself. Gently lead the young.

The Highest Peak of the Hebrew Scriptures. An audio teaching on Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12

God kills puppies?!

God killed every person and every animal on earth except a handful in a zoo boat. Saw something to that effect on social media recently. They were referring, of course, to the biblical story of Noah’s flood. Scientifically, a universal flood is impossible. There isn’t enough water. Theologically, it is even more problematic. 

God is exactly like Jesus. Jesus is the perfect reflection of who God is. He said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Jesus loves, forgives, brings life and grace and mercy. He doesn’t drown innocent children and puppies.

So, what to make of the flood story? It’s a sacred myth, repeated in different forms in many cultures around the ancient world. It’s based on a collective memory of a terrible flood that devasted the world as they knew it. Most likely, it’s based on a number of catastrophic local floods. Like all sacred myths, it teaches profound spiritual lessons. Lessons about caring for the earth, about the evils of violence, about selfishness, and hatred. And, lessons about mercy, new beginnings, hope for the future. 

If you would like to explore the science, check out:

Some thoughts on the theology of the flood:

God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone

God never ordered anyone to slaughter anyone else. How do I know? Because God is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. Jesus is the perfect revelation of who God is. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And, “I and the Father are one.” And, “I do always those things that please the Father.” God is exactly like Jesus and Jesus forgave his enemies, refused retaliation, and rejected violence as a solution.

Yet, in the Old Testament, we have passages where it says God ordered genocide. How can that be? In the Ancient Neareast (of which Israel was part), you honored your god by ascribing all victories to him/her/it. The ancient Jews did the same. They claimed YHWH slaughtered the Canaanites, Hittites and Jebusites. Of course, they knew right well that they did the killing. God told them to possess the land. They assumed that the only way to do was to invade with swords drawn. There’s evidence that if they’d simply trusted God, God would have persuaded the people who lived there (people created in God’s image; people God loved) to move on their own accord. Instead, the ancient Jews invaded, slaughtered, and gave the God of cruciform love the credit.

Jesus also invaded Canaan. In Matthew 15, the story is told of Jesus in Syrophoenicia. Jews and Syrophoenicians didn’t get along, mostly for economic and cultural reasons. A Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter. Using a bit of street theater, Jesus acted exactly as any Jewish rabbi would be expected – he ignored her. She pressed in. He said he had been sent to lost sheep of Israel. She said even dogs get crumbs. Jesus ended the theater and responded as we knew he would, with grace, love, acceptance, mercy, and healing. His Jewish followers had to be astonished. 

Joshua and the ancient Jewish tribes invaded Canaan with sword and genocide. Jesus invaded Canaan with cruciform love. A new kingdom has come. 

God asks 3 simple things. An audio teaching on Isaiah 52:1-12

God Feels Your Pain. an audio teaching on Isaiah 51

God Speaks: Audio teaching, Isaiah 50

Deconstructing without throwing the baby out with the bathwater

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as a child, acted as a child. But when I matured, I put away childish things. The Christian life is about being transformed – becoming more and more like Jesus. More loving. More forgiving. Kinder. More gracious and tolerant. Less judgmental. Humbler.  The process is called spiritual formation. If we cling to old ideas and old habits, we will never grow.  

For example, early in my Christian walk, I was taught that every word of the Bible was literally true. I was taught that God was mad at humanity and that only those who cognitively said a sinner’s prayer could escape eternal conscious torture. I was taught that the earth is about 6,000 years old and that God created everything in it in six 24-hour periods of time. I was taught that there are no errors in the Bible. I was taught that women could not be pastors or preachers. I was taught that America was specially chosen by God, that capitalism was godly, and that killing was justified in times of war, self-defense, or as a punishment for murder. I was taught that the world was going to get worse and worse until Jesus snatches his people out of it and returns in brutal, violent vengeance. I pictured God as stern and unapproachable. I no longer believe any of that.

Stuff happened to challenge my beliefs. I studied biology and genetics. I listened to Christian voices from other cultures. I studied the Bible in the context of the cultures it was written for originally. I saw white, evangelical Christians like me supporting immoral, dishonest, authoritarian politicians. I heard preachers rant condemningly against all sorts or people – immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ+, Muslims, liberals, Democrats, public health officials. I heard them fume against gun control, abortion under any circumstances, and vaccines. I saw them supporting wild conspiracies. I saw mega-churches built on marketing techniques putting on massive shows. I watched as multitudes of millennials and Gen-Zers dumped Christianity. I asked myself if the Jesus I was taught about was really the true Jesus of the Bible. I looked at the fruit and found little cruciform love.

So, I started deconstructing my faith, taking down my assumptions, questioning my preconceived ideas. At times, it felt like death. At times, I was confused, disconcerted, unmoored. But I was never tempted to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. My theology was like I had built a house around my conversion to Christ. The house worked for me when I was younger. Now, it was tattered and falling down. It needed to be torn down and a new house built. My theology needed to change.

What did not change was the core at the center of the house – the foundation – Jesus. 

It would be inaccurate to describe me today as a conservative fundamentalist. I’m growing. I’m seeing more clearly who Jesus really is. I am, day by day, loving him more deeply and knowing him more intimately. I find myself loving others, forgiving more easily, caring about those Jesus called “the least” of his siblings. I’m freer, more connected, more understanding, more loving, more teachable. Now, I have a long, long way to go. I’m not what I should be, but thank God, I’m not what I used to be. 

Religion: Good or Bad?

Religion can give us a higher purpose, a divine purpose, a cause worth dying for. Motivated by religion, we develop compassion, empathy, charity, and a sense of fairness. When religion is the impetuous for justice, great things can be accomplished. Emancipation, civil rights, medical care, Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, etc.

But, when religion is amalgamated with empire disaster occurs – wars, persecutions, oppression. Globally dominant empires rise, expand, and maintain power with the assistance of religion. Religion provides legitimacy, moral justification, divine sanction, and makes people willing to sacrifice their lives. 

Empires claim to be ordained and favored by the gods. Their leaders claimed to be divinely appointed. Empires have been supported by popes, priests, imams, holy men (it’s nearly always men) of all sorts. Whether it’s Roman Pax Romana, British Manifest Destiny, or the Euro-American Doctrine of Discovery, empires believe they have a special calling from the Divine to expand, control, and rule. Killing for the empire makes you a hero. Dying for the empire makes you a martyr. National holidays and foundational documents are considered sacred. God and country are inseparable. 

Religions are seduced by wealth and power into supporting empires. Every major religion has at some time traded foundational truth for a share of might, mammon, and official protection. 

Look at Christianity. For 300 years after the resurrection of Messiah Jesus, his followers were mostly poor and marginalized. They loved others, served those in need, rescued the rejected, tended to the sick (even in times of plagues), refused military service, welcomed everyone, judged no one, fed the hungry, clothed the poor, and forgave those who slaughtered and persecuted them. They lived simple, nonviolent, noncoercive lives of loving service.

Then, in 313, Constantine issued the edict of toleration and the persecution stopped. In 380, Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Suddenly, Christians had power and wealth. With the blessing of theologians and church officials, the Church not only supported, but declared it to be the duty of every faithful believer to take up arms joining the ranks of those who rape, pillage, and kill. The official church supported torture, theft, and slavery for centuries. 

In modern times, people claiming to be Christians infected and slaughtered native peoples, stole their land, worked the land with slaves, invaded sovereign nations, declared wars, and burnt villages. And they often did so with the blessing of their churches.

When Christianity became the state religion of Rome, it traded the God of Israel and God’s Messiah for the gods of militarism, mammon, and nationalism. In medieval France and Italy, it led to the Inquisition. In the first half of the 20th century, it led to the Holocaust. Today, it has led to Christian nationalism. Freedom, democracy, diversity, pluralism, and tolerance are all under attack. During Holy Week 2023 while Trump was in court being indited on 34 felony counts, Margery Taylor Greene was outside comparing him to Jesus. Christians are demonizing anyone who might disagree with them on social issues. It is not likely to end well.

Those of us who want to faithfully follow Jesus need to live by the Sermon on the Mount like never before. It is time to embrace the cross, serve the least, care for the broken and bereaved, wash the feet of the marginalized, welcome the alien and stranger, feed the hungry, heal the sick, house the homeless, and, perhaps above all, love, pray for, and forgive our enemies and those who despitefully use and persecute us. It’s past time we eschew wealth and political power, give up coercion, and lay aside nationalism. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. We pledge allegiance to God alone. It’s time to show the world what a follower of Jesus looks like.

They’re not under your bed, but they’re monsters. A video teaching on Isaiah 46-48

%d bloggers like this: