John 14:6 – I am the way, the truth, the life

Frederick Buechner

Beyond WordsAbout a dozen years ago, a blogger buddy of mine completed a quiz about the Bible, addressing several topics. One was “A teaching from the Bible that you struggle with or don’t get?”

The response: “John 14:6. Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’

“I’d honestly hate to think that good people who aren’t Christians in life will be turned away by God for this reason. I have a very hard time with this notion.”

I remember this vividly because I didn’t have a particularly good answer. Moreover, reading it literally, as many Christians I grew up with would do, caused me to pretty much abandon the church for over a decade.

The narrative propelled the notion that we needed all of these missionaries. Otherwise, the Buddhists and Hindus, and Muslims were all going to burn in hell because they had not “accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior.” Though I came back to church, I never found satisfactory verbiage to respond to this mindset. Until now.

The realm of mystery

In one of my small, remote groups at church, we are reading Beyond Words by Frederick Buechner, pronounced BEEK-ner. He is an ordained Presbyterian minister who attended, among other places, Yale Divinity School and the Union Theological Seminary. Buechner is, to the best of my knowledge, still alive at the age of 94.

Beyond Words is “A word a day to keep the demons away.” It is a 2004 compilation of three of his earlier books from the 1970s and 1980s, “tweaking some of the original entries.”

For the word “Christian,” he quotes the above scripture. Buechner added, “[Jesus] didn’t say any particular ethic, doctrine or religion was the way, the truth, and the life. He said that he was.

He didn’t say it was by believing or doing anything in particular that you can ‘come to the Father.'” This is nuanced stuff. “He said it was only by him – by living, participating in, being caught up by the way of life that he embodied, that was his way.”

Here’s the crux of the matter. “Thus it is possible to be on Christ’s way and with his mark upon you without ever having heard of Christ, and for that reason to be on your way to God though maybe you don’t even believe in God.”[Emphases mine.]

Buechner’s theology would no doubt be considered blasphemy in the circles I grew up with. Oddly, I now consider their views to be the actual heresy.

What Christianity means to me

morning stars sang together

Feed The HungryI’ve been thinking a lot about what Christianity means in an increasingly non-Christian believing country. This 2019 Pew survey notes that “both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009.

“Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious ‘nones’ – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular,’ up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.”

You might find it odd for me to suggest that I think it’s a rather good thing. Purported faith when everyone else is just like you is comparatively easy, perhaps even theologically lazy.

I believe should always be considering how this passage in Matthew 25:37-40 applies to our lives.

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

Sing, sing a song

My friend and Bible Guys buddy Eric sent this out. It occurred to me that it’d be an appropriate post for Christmas.

God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the ‘morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy’ at the creation of the world (Job 38:7).

It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

Wikipedia says: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and key founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship has been described as a modern classic.”

Merry Christmas.

Why people reject Christianity, part 38

an abomination

forked tongueAs a Christian, I know that there are a lot of understandable reasons why people reject Christianity. Pedophile priests, homophobic preachers… do I need to haul out the litany? That said, a couple of recent examples have distressed me more than usual.

ITEM: “Believe in Divine Immunity”: Trump-Supporting Megachurch Pastor Tells Congregation NOT To Take COVID Vaccine

“Guillermo Maldonado, the Florida megachurch pastor, and self-declared apostle… told his congregation not to take the soon-to-be-available vaccine for the COVID-19 virus because it is part of a plan to prepare people to accept the biblical Mark of the Beast.

“Maldonado, who mocked members of his own congregation for staying away from church in the early days of the pandemic, used his Sunday sermon to warn that the COVID-19 vaccine will ‘alter your DNA’ as globalists set about ‘preparing the structure for the Antichrist.'”

I’ve long found the obsession with the apocalypse to be theologically obscene. This one mixes in absurd technological blather.

That’s why they allow firing squads?

ITEM: Trumpkin pastor calls for Democrats and journalists to be executed 

“On the day before Thanksgiving, [Rick Wiles] called for Trump to have Democrats and journalists lined up and shot [because] they are secretly in bed with Beijing.

“The Christian [sic] pastor made the remarks during an episode of his TruNews program… as he discussed Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. Wiles also pointed out that the Justice Department has created a new rule allowing for firing squads to be used in federal executions…

“We already knew that Wiles is nothing more than a Nazi masquerading as a pastor… This is domestic terrorism, straight up.”

ITEM: An Ohio group called We the People Convention took out a full-page ad in the Washington Times (a flagship conservative newspaper).

They are asking Trump “to immediately declare a limited form of Martial Law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.

“OK, any crazy group can publish an ad in any paper that will take their money. But recently pardoned felon Michael Flynn retweeted the ad with the comment ‘Freedom never kneels except for God.'” The fact that they don’t have a prayer of a chance of reversing the outcome of the election doesn’t seem to stop them from trying anyway.

For those of you who think everything will change come 20 Jan 2021, I’m afraid not. We’re dealing with an extensive toxic mindset. And when it’s conflated with a sense of “God’s will”, we’re in deep trouble. This  Newspeak is an abomination. The definition of abomination is “a thing that causes disgust or hatred.”

These purported men of God are disgusting purveyors of hate. If their goal is to “bring people to the Kingdom”, they are failing miserably.

Dec. rambling: Fact-Resistant Humans

Lyn Lifshin was a great American poet



Prayer for America.

The real lesson of Afghanistan is that regime change does not work.

This is what Cambridge protesters said about Boris Johnson’s general election win. Roger Green, 73, convener of Stand up to Racism Cambridge, said the election result was greatly disappointing. He said: “It’s a knockback for people that we’ve ended up with a racist prime minister.”

Throwaway Kids: We are sending more foster kids to prison than college.

Living through the era of school shootings, one drill at a time.

My own private Iceland re: tourism.

Misusing ROMANS 13 to embrace theocracy.

Wars waged by ostentatiously Christian leaders in Washington have done enormous harm to their co-religionists half a world away in the Middle East.

Frankly Speaking: Child Marriage in the US.

Emotional Baggage. The Verge delivers an inside look at the working conditions at Away, every millennial’s favorite luggage brand. The picture ain’t pretty.

Borowitz satire, still true four years later: Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans.

3 Ways to Make A Difference: Changing The World With Political Awareness.

“Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom democracy and sustainable human development. ”
– Kofi Annan

CBS features the Baha’i Faith in “World of Worship” series.

Helping the homeless: Australian charity turns empty parking lots into safe pop-up accommodation.

Church says it wiped out over $5M in medical debt, but healthcare costs remain big-picture problem.

Answers from an actual lawyer: Can I use that music, image, or clip?

Hank Green reading the First Chapter of A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor.

Malcolm X.

Sesame Street characters do impressions of other Sesame Street characters.

Now I Know: The Postal Workers Who The Kid Who Wrote on the Walls and Didn’t Get in Trouble and Not Even Baby Yoda Knows How to Drive and The Day It Accidentally Rained Flying Whale Blubber.

#IMPOTUS

‘Not Mere Misers, But Actively Cruel’

With yet another Mar-a-Lago trip, the bill for his stays at his own resorts tops $118 million.

His Personal Pathology Is America’s Foreign Policy.

The Evangelical Deal with the Devil.

In his America “Christian” is no longer a religious faith.

Lyn Lifshin

Lyn Lifshin’s obituary. She was a great American poet who passed away on December 12th, 2019. The Albany Public Library Foundation honored her with a Literary Legend award in October 2019.

Please read an excerpt from LIPS, BLUES, BLUE LACE: ON THE OUTSIDE, an autobiographical essay. She was cremated in Virginia. There will be a memorial for her at the Unitarian Universalist Society in Schenectady in spring 2020.

EOY, EOD

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast 2019

50 Years Ago, the First Internet Message Was Dispatched from UCLA.

What did this year mean for civil rights and liberties? Four ACLU attorneys tell us.

TCM Remembers video.

The best films of 2019 according to Wired and Vogue.

Rotten Tomatoes: The 200 Best Movies of the 2010s. I’ve seen about 80 of them, at least two of which I actively dislike.

The Decade in Content. The memes, viral videos, social media phenomenons, and TikTok zombies that defined the 2010s as much as movies, TV, or music did.

Saturday Night Live: home for the holiday.

Music

Coverville 1290 and 1291: Coverville Countdown 2019 part 1 and part 2.

When a Scandal Stinks Like a Whale on the Beach – Mangy Fetlocks

One Voice: A Holiday Presentation by The USAF Band.

How Sweet to be an Idiot – Neil Innes

Hold My Hand – THE RUTLES

Linda Ronstadt isn’t just a legendary singer. She’s also a fierce defender of migrant rights.

The true dwelling of the holy

something in the here and now

true identity of the holyThis being Advent, that period roughly between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I’m thinking a lot of theology. As it turns out, fillyjonk wrote about what I have experienced and what I believe.

“The ‘true dwelling of the holy’ – I was thinking today of how there seem to be competing ideas in Christianity that I’ve seen; where some groups within it are bent on withdrawing from the ‘”world’ as much as possible, and, I guess, waiting on either the Second Coming* or the Afterlife, because that’s the Kingdom of Heaven, and then things will be right.

“And others – and this is more traditionally the congregations I’ve been a part of – have tried to do what they can to bring a little bit of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now. And I admit, with all the loss in my life lately, and some sad old doubts reawakening….well, if maybe the here and now is all we have, shouldn’t we strive to make it as good for everyone around us, and ourselves as well? All we know we have is this day, and so it probably behooves us to be both happy and kind in it.”

The Dustbury connection

I should note that fillyjonk lost her father this year. She was a friend and follower of the late blogger Dustbury. In fact, I became aware of her blog from him.

“(*At one point in my childhood, we briefly attended a church where a lot of the members were really hot on the “End Times” ideas, where the faithful would be raptured and the rest of us would be left to wait out the horrible things that were to come… I admit as an anxious child, that thing scared me a lot – what if I was one of the people who realized one day ‘Hey where is this person? And that person?’ and then realized with dawning horror that they had been raptured away and I hadn’t been ‘good enough.'”

I had received that Rapture message, which ultimately drove me AWAY from the church, ironically.

“And based on my Bible reading as an adult, that doesn’t seem a terribly Biblical thing, or at least, it’s a stretch of stuff John of Patmos wrote, but….I remember being uncomfortable with it as a child. And I would so much rather be the person working in a food bank or welcoming a newcomer or doing something in the here and now to try to make someone’s life here and now better, and not to build up Good Place points for myself so much as….well, because I would like other people to do the same for me.)”

That Matthew 25 message of feeding the hungry, et al., is what helped draw me back to the church. That is, for me, the “true dwelling of the holy.”