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Stephen Prothero is a religion scholar at Boston University, and has written a book entitled “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation,” . Stephen has taken some flack for some of his recent writings at the blog about Jesus. I’m not saying that I agree totally with Stephen’s conclusions… but I will say that I think many times our Christianity here in the states is more ‘western’ than ‘biblical’ at times.  It’s a natural response to our culture and upbringing. Personally… I like pieces like this that make me think. Take a read, and let me know what YOU think about Stephen’s writing: In my book “American Jesus,” I demonstrated how American views of Jesus, rather than adhering strictly to the unchanging biblical witness, have shifted with the cultural and political winds. Over the course of U.S. history Jesus has been a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior. In other words, he has been used, by both the left and the right. Or, as I put it, “The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king, pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess, sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.” This problem of mistaking your God for the God  the problem, that is, of idolatry was captured beautifully by Albert Schweitzer, who suggested that scholars on a quest for the “historical Jesus” were looking down into a deep well and seeing not the real Jesus but reflections of themselves. This is what is happening, in my view, to my angry evangelical readers. In this case, however, they are looking down the well and seeing some mashup of Ronald Reagan and Romney. Instead of the biblical Christ, they are seeing the Republican Jesus. There are many ways to support my argument that the preoccupations of the Christian Right today are not the preoccupations of the Bible. One is to point out that abortion is never even mentioned in the Bible. (Yes, Jeremiah 1:5 reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” but when did that formation happen? At conception? At quickening? At birth?) Another is to point out that American evangelicals didn’t care about the abortion question until the GOP taught them to care. As Jonathan Dudley observes in a recent Belief Blog post, U.S. Catholic leaders began to take on abortion right after Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973, but American evangelical leaders continued to teach that life begins at birth until the late 1970s and early 1980s. If the Bible clearly teaches us that our politics should center on the abortion question, why did it take nearly 2,000 years for Bible believers to figure this out? Here is my basic proposition: Bible-believing Christians who want to base their politics on the Bible ought to get the Bible straight, which is to say (a) correct and (b) directly from the page, rather than filtered through the spin of the GOP. To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of“The Official King James Bible Online,” which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity. Not surprisingly, “and” and “the” are the top two.  But how do more meaningful words rank? Abortion, of course, is not on the list. Neither is homosexuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male homosexuality (and either one or zero to lesbianism, depending on how you read Romans 1:26). So these issues are not central. But which issues are? Well, faith, grace and salvation, for starters. (They appear 231, 159 and 158 times, respectively.) But if you turn to the political questions that beset us today, what does this quantitative approach to the Bible yield? First and foremost, a preoccupation with “war” (470 times) and “peace” (280). Second, a preoccupation with economics, and especially with the rich (109) and the poor (233). The Bible also seems far more concerned with “prison” and “prisoners” (109) than we are in U.S. politics today. And, I might add, with famine (101). Finally, the Bible mentions Israel a lot (2,509 times)  even more than heaven (644). So that seems to be something that both candidates got right in the third debate. To conclude, I have no problem with evangelical Christians voting for Romney. My complaint arises when they say they are doing so because the Bible commands them to vote for the candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage. You can read more here. Thoughts? Todd
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We’re all heard it before:  “I consider myself spiritual, but not religious.” Alan Miller says that’s a copout.  Check this out… posted over at CNN’s religion blog: Christianity has been interwoven and seminal in Western history and culture. As Harold Bloom pointed out in his book on the King James Bible, everything from the visual arts, to Bach and our canon of literature generally would not be possible without this enormously important work. Indeed, it was through the desire to know and read the Bible that reading became a reality for the masses – an entirely radical moment that had enormous consequences for humanity. Moreover, the spiritual but not religious reflect the “me” generation of self-obsessed, truth-is-whatever-you-feel-it-to-be thinking, where big, historic, demanding institutions that have expectations about behavior, attitudes and observance and rules are jettisoned yet nothing positive is put in replacement. The idea of sin has always been accompanied by the sense of what one could do to improve oneself and impact the world. Yet the spiritual-but-not-religious outlook sees the human as one that simply wants to experience “nice things” and “feel better.” There is little of transformation here and nothing that points to any kind of project that can inspire or transform us. At the heart of the spiritual but not religious attitude is an unwillingness to take a real position. Influenced by the contribution of modern science, there is a reluctance to advocate a literalist translation of the world. But these people will not abandon their affiliation to the sense that there is “something out there,” so they do not go along with a rationalist and materialistic explanation of the world, in which humans are responsible to themselves and one another for their actions – and for the future. Theirs is a world of fence-sitting, not-knowingess, but not-trying-ness either. Take a stand, I say. Which one is it? A belief in God and Scripture or a commitment to the Enlightenment ideal of human-based knowledge, reason and action? Being spiritual but not religious avoids having to think too hard about having to decide. // More here… Thoughts? Todd
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Leadership
 

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows the McFarland family that a lot of talking takes place in our home.  I used to try to simply push all the blame off on my wife and our girls, but the reality is that I “talk” for a living, so I too must take some responsibility.  One of the most common phrases uttered in our house is, “You have 2 ears and only 1 mouth, so talk less and listen more.”  While I am usually the one saying these words, I have had them directed at me numerous times.

Recently, I have begun to feel that while that phrase is adequate, it is far from complete.  Sure, everyone  from kids to parents to politicians to church leaders needs to do a better job of listening more, but it can’t stop there.  I wonder if a piece of that saying has been lost in translation?  I wonder if we are missing out on something more than just being quiet and listening?  I wonder if there is more out there for us to grasp?

What if the original phrase read like this:

You have 1 mouth, 2 ears, 4 appendages and a Big Heart.  Therefore, you should talk less, listen more, serve frequently and love greatly.

Wow, that’s kinda long and a lot harder to remember.  Plus, it isn’t exactly easy to accomplish.  Maybe that is why we just dropped the second half; that’s more efficient, right?

While it may be more efficient, it is also less effective.  Oh, and a tad bit selfish.

You see, talking less and listening more will make you a much better person, but if we stop there, it’s pretty selfish.  When we realize that we have been given hands and feet so that we can go and serve others, we go beyond just us; we realize that others can benefit from what we have learned.  However, if we simply talk less, listen more, and serve others without a deeper purpose, we are really just again, being selfish.  Sure, serving others out of our surplus is nice, but it always makes us feel good. Is everything really about us?

That is where are heart comes in to play.

You see, we are all spiritual beings; that is the way God created us.  Inside each of us is a soul that will live on for eternity.  A soul that is broken and is searching desperately for a way to be restored.  The only answer for restoration is trusting in Jesus Christ.  Jesus fixes everything, from the inside out.

So, the most important part of that whole phrase is the part about the “big heart.”  Why is it big?  Because it has been completely restored by Jesus Christ and is full of enough Grace to share with the world.

We should talk less, listen more, serve frequently and love greatly.

That means we have to get up and move.  That means we must come to terms with the fact that our goal in life isn’t to simply get everything we want.  That means we have to think of others.  That means that we must first, Trust Jesus to restore us and second, share the restoration we experienced with everyone so they can have the opportunity to experience it as well.

But that all sounds really hard, time consuming and kind of messy.  Couldn’t we find a way to be more efficient?  Maybe we didn’t lose anything in translation after all; maybe we just hid the hard stuff so we could forget about it and make things easier.

Yeah, that sounds much better.  We just need to be quiet and listen more.  That’s what the church is for anyway, right?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.” ~ James 1:22

 

 

Josh McFarland

 

Josh is a happily married father or 2 beautiful girls.  His writings are sporadic, his thoughts are random, and occasionally the two collide.  He currently serves as the Lead Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hillsboro, OH.

 

You can find Josh on twitter, facebook, blogspot and usually drinking coffee:

www.twitter.com/joshmcfarland

www.facebook.com/joshmcfarland

www.jmacrev.blogspot.com

 
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