The carpenter


Change happens, intentional or not. Time does that. The protesters become the establishment and a new wave of rebels rise up.

In the 1970s, before rock and roll had been integrated into many Protestant services, after the explosion of youth culture in America claimed its first and second wave of devotees, some within this emerging youth culture began to feel disillusioned by churches in which they grew up. They did not favor the dying Jesus or the risen Jesus or even the God Jesus. They were drawn to the real man who walked the earth in dusty sandals. They wanted to emulate his humility and simple desire to love and help others. Some were in the “hippie” counterculture when they began to gravitate toward a Christian message; others were Christians drawn to the counterculture. They saw Jesus as the ultimate hippie, and they aspired to be like him. They got labeled “Jesus people” or “Jesus freaks.”

One church in my town links its founding directly to the 70’s Jesus Movement, and I’ve been anticipating my visit there all year, wondering what it will be like to penetrate the invisible barrier that seems to separate its congregants from the rest of the community. Their building sits in stark contrast to what I know of the group’s humble origins. The founders of this church began as a ragtag group of college students who met wherever they could—in living rooms and borrowed spaces—until finally, 20 years down the line, they raised enough funds to construct their own building.

The building watches over one of the busier intersections in town, the impression of its size magnified by its position at the top of a hill. The church is a modernist structure, all right angles and glass. Large beams protrude above the entrance, one on either side, each bent in the middle, supporting a long thin cross. They look very much like enormous arms holding a sword poised to stab hapless bystanders. The hillside leading to the church is covered in hundreds of juniper bushes with sharp points like enormous shards of green glass. No path leads to the church’s door, the only entrance is a driveway for cars.

Despite the flashy building, and its lack of consideration for pedestrians or anyone who might approach on foot, the emphasis is still on the Jesus who walked. Every member is encouraged to take the “foundation course” called the “Carpenter Series” to help students build lives more like Christ “whether you have never heard much about Jesus…or have been walking with Him for years…”

The denomination is listed in the newspaper Worship Directory under a category called “Interdenominational Charismatic.”  It’s a label that downplays denominational divisions while focusing on the extraordinary works—“Charisma” means “gifts” in Greek—faith can bestow. Such gifts may include spontaneous healing and impulsive displays of joy. The name of the church alludes to the burning conviction in such works; it’s called something like “Vibrant Belief.”

So large does this church’s insular reputation loom in our community that my None friends use it as an explanation for anyone who seems to minimize contact with them. If a coworker or neighbor barely speaks to anyone but seems normal in every other way, one explanation is always that he or she is “probably Vibrant Belief.”

Even though this church’s distance from my house is walkable, I drive there and park in a guest spot…

47 thoughts on “The carpenter

  1. Corinna, you are a brave woman! These are the folks that make me nervous; they operate so far out of my comfort zone and MY belief system. Your comment about your None friends and your co-wokers seems to say that I am not the only one in this boat…..I will be interested in your perspective after you have visited

  2. I have no idea what attracts folks to the mega Jesus churches. They run rampant in southern California and throughout the South of our country. They seem to be hot U.S. political conservatives as well and are happy to make of Jesus a strong political statement in favor of Tea Party politics telling the rest of us that we aren’t true Americans if we haven’t listened to their message or followed their interpretation of what constitutes the American way. Maybe one of them is following this blog and can leave a brief message to help me understand.

    • Frank, there’s “The Way” and then there’s “The American Way.” I believe that they are not compatable. The first never changes. The second changes with the wind.

      • Jmontyjr,
        Well said! Now days, Americans are considered to be bigots if they don’t tolerate everything going on in the world around them. I can love my neighbor as Jesus commanded, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the way they may choose to live their lives….especially if it their choices are unbiblical.

        • Jo L,
          To me the word “un-blblical” is an ambiguous terminology, depending on who you are talking to at the time…. to.which church the speaker adheres. Can you explain what YOU mean…..without scripture, if you can. Do you believe the meaning of “un-biblical” differs from religious group to religious group? Not whether it should…..but whether it does in real life.

          • Merrill,
            To me it’s pretty black and white. I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and the guidebook for how I should live my life. If the Bible says something is a sin, it’s unbiblical and counter to what the Bible teaches. That’s as simplistic as I can explain it.

          • It reminds me of a bumper sticker that was popular several years ago: “The Bible says it. I believe it. That’s good enough for me.”
            All I can say is, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Reminds me of another bumper sticker: “In case of the rapture the driver’s seat will be vacated.” I tried to keep my distance or pull out around and pass him since no man knows the day or the hour.

  3. Whenever I hear about any attempt to follow in Jesus’ footsteps I remember a comment I read once in a column by an atheist. And sad to say, the point he made was fairly close to accurate: the only person on this earth since Jesus and the Apostles walked it who did exactly what Jesus did was Francis of Assissi, who owned one robe and never anything else ever again. Just walked and breathed Jesus.

    Whenever I think about how huge a chasm there is between what I should do: “Sell everything you own and give it to the poor,” and what I DO do, which is live a very comfortable life with little want and almost no discomfort, I pretty much become embarassed to even claim to be a follower of Jesus. And that is only in the material way. We won’t even go into how not well I tend to follow in a spiritual way (I know my own conscious).

    So, to echo Merrill and Frank, I am a bit…..hesitant….for want of a better word about these churches. I have never been to one (I don’t like crowds that much), so I’m not really qualified to say much. I’m just relaying my initial impressions of the whole “What Would Jesus Do” Charismatic movement. I would love to be proved to be a nasty, judgemental, overcritical, misunderstanding person. As kindism says, I’d like to hear more, too.

  4. Wow, Corinna….I was reading this with great interest, even overlooking (maybe excusing?) the beautifully exquisite, expensive building you were describing….that is, until I got to the phrase “insular reputation.” Then my heart sunk. I’m sure some will speak up in their defense, saying perhaps that they’ve been misjudged. The problem with that is that Christians should have a reputation that honors Christ to those around. When Jesus spoke about people knowing that his followers were disciples of his by their love for one another, that did not exclude the people living around them.
    One good memory your post elicited from me: The mid-60s saw a change in how people tended to perceive Jesus. Prior to that, he was often painted as “gentle Jesus, meek and mild”–which didn’t tend to attract the kind of rough people that Jesus actually hung with. He wasn’t either some glorified hippie type, as some thought. During that era, my pastor delivered an eye-opening sermon called “Jesus Christ, the man’s man.” I first remember hearing at at surf camp, and then a couple other times. The pastor spoke of Jesus who was a real man’s man physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. It made sense to me then, but not quite enough to draw me in as an honest disciple–but I remember it now.

  5. I have to say this in response to the comment by JmontyJr. and Jo L: Yes. There IS the Way, and it is above and beyond any nationalistic “American Way”, or political way. And I agree that you can and MUST love your neighbor and yet grieve over how they choose to live their lives, as any one would when they see someone endangering themselves. This harks back to a comment I made a few threads ago when I was being honest about the divergence of opinions and belief on this blog. I truly DO believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I would breathe a sigh of relief is I knew all were Believers; again, as I said in another post, Jesus’ comment that if you denied him before men, he would deny you before the Father is a bit sticky to get around in any way.

    That being said, I have also made the comment on these blogs – and take comfort in it – that our only responsibility is to speak, tell, LIVE, exemplify, the Good News. What is done with it is the business of God and the Holy Spirit and God alone knows the exact state of ANY man’s soul.

    And THAT being said, the most important part of what Jo L said about ‘loving your neighbor’ is to tack on the ‘as you do yourself’. That pretty much doesn’t give us any place to go except to respect the right of any other living being to make their choices as we make ours.

    When you see what you consider ‘not the Way’ or ‘unbiblical’, the strongest answer you have is, as always, fervent, continuing prayer. And constant, continuing love, of the 1st Corinthians version.

    Yours in Christ

  6. Well, Corinna, this brings back memories. I am one of those hippies who became a Jesus freak. This may be just me, just a generalization but for what it’s worth: as hippies we rejected the established authorities, be they political or religious. We saw lies and phoniness, greed and inequality. We wanted to make a better world (remember the song “Age of Aquarius”?) and we really believed we could. It was time of great idealism. For me too, there was a lot of drugs and sex and after a few years, I was ready for a savior. Fortunately I met some Jesus people, and realized the savior I needed was Jesus. This was different from all the boring droning years of church — the Jesus I was introduced to was, like you say Walt, a real man who walked the dirty earth, befriending people like me, wanting a relationship with me that was deeper than Sunday morning. This was what I’d been looking for all along, the Jesus Way IS the way to make a better world.

    Then something awful happened. We establishment-rejecters became the establishment. Our idealism shrank down into realism, pragmatism. We became church leaders instead of Jesus followers. We got conservative in our values and world view. Yes, I confess this now: I (gulp) became a Republican. (I hope you guys are laughing.)

    Just to finish my part of the story, I had another reawakening and now I’m kind of back to the anti-establishment views I had to begin with, although I admit it’s hard to believe at 62 that I can make a better world most days. But I submit my story to shed some light on the Coming of the Mega-Churches. They are being run by baby boomers like me. Many of these people were wild-eyed hippies once. What the heck happened? I’m for bringing more Francis of Assisi into the world!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, homewithin. It was pretty much what I thought. As an aside, there have been several shows over the years, usually on PBS where aging “hippies” tell their story of how things changed and most of them got back into the mainstream. It sometimes makes me feel sad because they really made a dent in the direction a staid and boring and mostly unauthentic society was moving in. And, then, as you say somehow it all went away and here we are stuck with the Jesus people. The sad part to me in terms of those in my family who have become dedicated to this kind of evangelicalism is how they lose themselves. The family people I know were once budding artists and/or writers, teachers or educated military people who were getting ready to give their inner gift to the world and instead gave it all up for Jesus and no longer worked with the gifts and talents they were born with unless they could only do so for the particular church they chose to attend. On the political side what I hear is not what they really believe but what they have heard a charismatic minister tell them to convince them that he/she has the correct handle on things. I guess in my philosophy we don’t give up ourselves to serve, we allow our serving self to come forward in inclusive ways that honor all of life. With these relatives my words, of course, fall on deaf ears.

    • Oh, Homewithin (Shelley), your story made me laugh! Perhaps there is a way to avoid that progression of rebels turning into establishment, but I don’t think many have found the solution yet. What is the solution? Is there a solution?

  7. I thank you for your life story, too, Shelley. I was a bit hippie in my younger years, too, but did not have the undercurrent of the Jesus thing. I think most of us from those years have grown more conservative…..but, being in education and a humanist, , I never abandoned my “liberal” Democratic roots!….however as I aged, I did certainly become more conservative in some ways. The question is for me why some people moved so far to the right with all their beliefs in ALL arenas. People who spouted all those great “hippie” ideals (power to the people…..make love, not war…, etc) now think they should be not only in charge of their church, but also the whole United States. What in heaven’s name happened to these folks…..or their parents…. who were the hippies? Like I said earlier, these people are frightening to me because they are not content to have THEIR lives in order as they see fit….they want me to have no choice but to be there, too.

    I certainly can’t say that my church doesn’t become politicized… does…..but we don’t expect full compliance from all the members.. We welcome diversity….as Frank mentioned earlier about his church….and we reach outward, not curl inward.. I just don’t think Jesus would be very comfortable in the church that you visited, Corinna, or others like it… why do they exude such righteousness?

    I usually try to be open-minded….but I have trouble with people who try to take away by freedom of choice….in many ways. But I am still listening.

  8. This is interesting to me because I was one of those card carrying hippies. Or as much of one as a silly, college student attending a conservative college in conservative Denton, Texas could be. And yet where I went from that was metaphysics and astrology and Unity and waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay far away from traditional Christianity. I didn’t get back to that until about 36 or 37 years old.

    I think that what helped me become comfortable in the more traditional church again, because it sort of highlighted my anti-establishment feelings, was Martin Luther’s concept of “Every Priest a believer; every believer a PRIEST.” That gave me a sort of freedom from anything, bottom line, except my heart and Jesus. That feeling is still with me as an Anglican (much to the horror of my priest, I am sure, lol.) I remember once barely making it in to church from the kitchen in time and a priest who attended our church was right behind me. I laughed and said “Ah well, as long as I make it for Communion, that’s the important part.” And he was aghast and said “Oh…you have to be there for Confession.” My response was to laugh again and tell him that God and I talked ALL the time, and I pretty much Confess continuously, so I wasn’t worried about it.

    An interesting side thought is that some of the people who have done huge, huge things in the Name of Jesus and with the power of Christ, as Mother Theresa, also were under the most stringent faith disciplines. Yet her trademark was being utterly humble. Exuding righteousness and Mother Theresa can’t even be thought in the same breath. Oh well…just some rambling thoughts.

    This ex-hippie (did I mention I had a maroon red with mustard yellow paisley Nehru suit and love beads?) is off for a bit for dinner. Hello all and goodbye for a bit.

    Yours in Christ

  9. Patti, You make me laugh! And I like that you can find humor in your own beliefs, I guess I would say! It seems to me that you realize how resilient religion is when you are living it…. it’s not just a facade to impress other people.

    And, YIKES! Mother Teresa was far from my mind when I wrote about righteousness. Stringent, devout believing and behaving are very different from some of the folks I have met from the evangelical mega-churches in my area. Mother Teresa might have prayed for me, but I don’t believe she would have contended that her conscience and ethics were superior to mine.

    I hope you retired that Nehru suit like I did my flowing hair and long dresses! Peace. Merrill

    • Poor me!! I had no chance with the wonderful Hippies. I was a straight laced, suit and tie, book bag carrying Jehovah’s Witness who believed you were all giving voice to Satan’s wicked world and I was so much better than you. But…oh…my….you looked like you were having so much fun. If I could only have made it to Woodstock or San Francisco but alas it was not meant to be. But I did love the Momma’s and the Papa’s “California Dreamin'”….I finally made it.

  10. I’m having a bit of trouble with the matronly, sanguine image of you three wise women juxtaposed with a Janis Joplin-esque figure of the 60’s. . . grin. . .
    My connection to this ‘era’ (since Patti mentioned attire) is Jesus sandals. We all wore them; in fact, you just weren’t ‘cool’ if you didn’t have a pair. (You know, the leather thongs with the strap across the top of the foot and absolutely NO tread)
    I didn’t know they were called Roman sandals until Merle Haggard released, “Okie from Muskokee”!!
    I don’t know, though, I think the hippies of that generation were really trying to make things better in their world, and Woodstock left its imprint on a generation. Maybe THIS generation is trying to tell the world something by becoming “Nones” – maybe that’s where we’re headed on this train ride. . . .

    • I don’t know that we’ll all become “Nones” although I do believe the number will increase. What I teach and hope for all is that they continue to develop their intuitive sense so that no matter what religion or spirituality they espouse they recognize that they, too, are products of the Divine and can bring forth the gift of themselves in their chosen setting rather than give up on themselves for the sake of a particular teaching. Everyone has so much to offer and when they start sitting around posing for holy pictures I get worried.

  11. I think you make a good point, Frank. I see a lot more people who may choose to align themselves with an established church but who know they will never agree with 100% of what their church or denomination may say. Its been an “underground” movement for many years; I recall the surveys that say something like 75% of Roman Catholics ignore the church’s teachings on birth control. I just think its becoming more open. Human nature being what it is, we can’t realistically expect everyone to agree with everything an institution says or does 100% of the time, and attempts to coerce cooperation usually fail. I think most people will continue to identify themselves as a “Something” but not blindly commit themselves to everything the denomination says. Its up to church leadership to decide how it will respond to this movement. At some point, there needs to be a balance between sticking to the core beliefs while allowing some difference of opinion on other issues. Its always been a difficult balancing act, but one that’s becoming more important. I do think there are some basic core doctrines you have to accept to call yourself a Christian, most of which are stated in the Nicene creed. But, you can certainly be spiritual without being a confessed Christian.

  12. Frank and Tim….interesting look at where part of the people in the world( at least here in the U.S.) are going in terms of religion and choice, but then there are those other people flocking to churches such as the last one Corinna attended and others we have seen through Corinna’s eyes….the ones that require complete immersion. What is that about? MET

  13. Hi Merrill—

    I think the “Jesus churches” appeal to a few different types of people. The easiest ones to spot would be the people who prefer to be told how to live their faith lives rather than doing some self-examination, just like Rush Limbaugh’s “ditto-heads”. Life is a lot easier if you let someone else do the deep thinking for you, especially if what you’re hearing reinforces your own pre-conceived notions about the world. These kind of people define themselves by the groups they’re in, and define others by the groups they’re placed in, whether its religious, racial, political, or socio-economic. They live in a tightly-defined (and in my opinion, confining) world. Unfortunately, history is rife with examples of what people like that can be swayed to do in the name of the “greater good”.

    Another type like these kinds of churches because they’re easy. Since its very likely most of the members share the same world-view to begin with, fitting in is easy. The preaching and lessons are easy to take, since they generally don’t challenge what most of the congregants already believe, and there’s always a “them” to blame for the trouble “we” find ourselves in. Unfortunately, these congregations can be awfully tough on folks they define as “the other”, whether that be non-Christians, the poor, or political undesirables.

    Finally, I think there is an element, as Walt says, who need a macho, WWF savior who is going to pass out some tough justice. A while ago, I read a book that described Jesus, in His second coming, as flashing a tattooed leg, swinging a bloody sword and smiting a whole lot of unbelievers, imagery bastardized from Revelation. This writer wasn’t having any of the “let the children come to me” Jesus. In their minds, justice, revenge, and faith mix to create a violently potent brew. Anyone who doesn’t toe the line—a line they define—is a prime target for eternal damnation, and maybe a little earthly abuse on the side. I’m not really sure what creates this kind of skewed vision; it could be the violence we see all around us, or the need for assurance that there will an unavoidable, final, and eternally terrible price to be paid by our enemies, or individual trauma, but I find this last group the most frightening of all.

    Short story, all of them need a group to give themselves value and to prop up their world view, to the point where they willingly abandon their own innate notions of right, wrong, and fairness just to fit in.

    • What an excellent analysis, Tim. I read it to my husband and we agree you pretty much nailed it. It reminded us of the 2 1/2 years we spent at one of these churches. About the only thing I’d add is the prevalence of consumer mentality and modern promotional techniques lifted directly from the world of advertising. The leaders of our church really had those marketing styles down. And I think it makes people “comfortable” because their church is just like what they see on tv or on the internet; they’re at home and they don’t even know why. We left the church as they began their building campaign, and what they ended up constructing looks just like a Starbucks. What’s more, that’s the image they WANTED to project. Give the consumers what they want and they will beat a path to your door. But where is God in all of this?

  14. Tim, thanks for your thoughtful analysis of the situation. I have been a Unitarian Universalist for the past 45 years….and since we are not creedal in nature and value independent thinking, this kind of follow-the-leader behavior is quite foreign to me personally…I guess I would say that it is just not in my nature! But you reminded me of the time I was in my late teens. I had began to reject Christian creed/dogma and to embrace the Unitarian/Universalist thinking, but I was filled with anguish because the path I was taking was so difficult. Making up my own mind…deciding what I believed was what I was called to do, but I spent many an hour wishing I was Catholic or Mormon or any of the denominations which did not brook diverse thinking. I so wanted to take that easy way out, but, of course, I was unable to reverse my journey. Now I can’t imagine being anywhere else spiritually!

  15. Merrill—
    I’ve always had a lot of respect for Unitarians. They were among the first to challenge the concept of God as a Cosmic Accountant, crediting our good deeds and debiting our sins to determine who’s going to Heaven or Hell. I’ve always been a little leery of those denominations that think they have God all figured out. I’m sure His view of the world is much different than ours. As it says in Scripture, “I will have mercy on those on whom I choose to have mercy, and I will condemn these I choose to condemn.” Rather than the statement of a capricious God, I see this saying as a warning to people who think they have the key to Heaven.
    Several years ago, we inherited some money and wanted to tithe a portion. After doing a lot of research, we decided to make a donation to the Universalist efforts for famine relief in Darfur. We very impressed by the focus on relieving the suffering there. Any way you look at, that’s doing Christ’s work on earth.

    Thanks for the complement! Living in So Cal, I’ve seen a lot of these churches in action. I think your metaphor of church as Starbucks is an accurate one. I think it goes back to an earlier comment on how some people want to know what they can get out of a church instead of what they can bring to it and to Jesus. They view church as just another commodity to be consumed. And if they don’t like the product, they can switch providers. That’s probably why many of these churches have such sophisticated marketing programs; they have to constantly reinvent the message to attract new congregants and keep the ones they have. The church becomes just another mall, where salvation can be bought off the shelf.
    Where’s God in all of this? He’s just another brand name.

  16. Hello friends. I’ve been busy today and cogitating everything I’ve read on the thread, off and on.

    Tim, you make me remember with a smile the year David and I donated equally to Mother Theresa’s convent in Dallas, Texas (we lived just outside in a small town) and the Harri Krishna temple in Dallas. The temple was in one of the really economically depressed areas near Swiss Avenue, one of the richest neighborhoods of town. They passed out, door to door, boxed lunches of hot food to the elderly people who lived in the poor part. Mother Theresa’s nuns did similar work around Dallas.

    Can you say “Feed the poor?” Sounded like identical work to me.

    I also have been thinking about how spot on your posts have been….I read one to my husband and he agreed.

    In fact, we have all been talking about one of the things we don’t understand, and I think that is how can churches (especially Mega churches) be such closed societies? The people Jesus tended to help/feed/associate with/ were not exactly the buddy buddies of his Apostles or anyone in the ‘in’ group. They were the despised and the poor. I guess what is coming to mind is the scriptural bit about “who would give his child a stone if they asked for bread?” (paraphrased badly) When we are in JUST our parish or temple or church and give to fellow members or provide for their needs, it’s wonderful. But they are OUR children, of course we won’t give them stone. But we should be thinking seriously about who we are NOT giving bread to, if you will.

    I may seem to have gotten off track here, but there was a comment about how the “Vibrant Belief’ people seemed not to have anything to do with anyone else.

    How can that be church??? Or Temple (of any kind)????? To me, it can’t.

    Merrill, your comment made me remember what my experience coming BACK to the church was like. What is funny is that we had mirror image experiences. I had a severely difficult time during my journey back to the church. Yet my heart was so convicted of the Spirit that I couldn’t NOT. I have described it as an experience where you can imagine a beach with drag marks in the sand. Those were made by my heels, lol.

    And that in turn made me think of Tim’s “At some point, there needs to be a balance between sticking to the core beliefs while allowing some difference of opinion on other issues. Its always been a difficult balancing act, but one that’s becoming more important. I do think there are some basic core doctrines you have to accept to call yourself a Christian, most of which are stated in the Nicene creed.” My personal difficulty was in accepting those core beliefs while not abandoning my heartfelt hope and desire that all of the wonderful things I had encountered along my path did not mean God’s condemnation of them. This sounds confusing’; I hope ya’ll understand what I’m trying to say.

    One thing for sure, this blog creates SERIOUS internal dialogue, at least for me. It’s a continual growth experience. Among friends.
    Yours in Christ


    • Patti

      I think this is one of the best posts I’ve yet read on this blog. It really goes to the heart of what it means to be a church and how to stay grounded in an ever-changing world. It was a lot easier in the past, when travelling was more difficult; everyone was pretty much surrounded by people who looked the same, spoke the same language, and believed the same things. Now we’re all thrown together in a wonderfully chaotic mix, and we need to figure out which is the right path. I don’t think it requires us to equally believe in all things; when you try to represent everything, you stand for nothing. At the other end of the spectrum, turning insular, as many mega-churches have, and accepting only an ever-narrowing definition of “acceptable” Christianity isn’t the answer, either. Most generations of believers have faced some kidn of challenge, whether it was martyrdom at the hands of the Romans, or the Reformation. Ours is trying to figure out God’s plan for us and the world grown much smaller.

  17. Patti—-Our mirror experiences made me remember the Dr. Doolittle character called the “pushmi-pullyu” which was an animal that had two heads shared by one body—-one head on either end! Which way to go? Which way to go?

  18. Merill, you make me laugh!! I can see it, I can see it, indeed. A pushmi-pully with each of our heads on it. 🙂 Thanks, Tim. Your comment about when you try to represent everything, you stand for nothing is my husband’s exact response. And this is indeed the challenge in our generation. May I say, with a FULL heart, that I am glad we don’t face those from either of the times you mentioned? I have zero pain tolerance, and I have often wondered if I would apostatize if faced with martyrdom. Since the answer is probably yes, I have thanked God that I live in AMERICA in the 21st century instead. Emotional I can handle. Physical, not at all.

    Have a great evening guys. I am off for tonight.

    Yours in Christ.

    • Seems to be a lot of different ways to open up to God. It got me thinking about a variety of scopes and their ability to bring things closer into view or depending on how we turn the scope to see things from a distance.. Each serves its purpose. And then I laughed as I thought about the kaleidiscope, which I haven’t looked through for a number of years, where all these beautiful color chips keep changing shape, color, size and design as one turns the mechanism of the scope. We get to choose what we want to see and how close or distant we choose to be in relation to it or if we want to see a world of change and color. I think Jesus, the Master teacher, brought many things near and far through the use of parables or illustrations. There is so much more to Jesus than what culminated at the cross. And there is more to each of us than the labels we choose to wear. We live through many life experiences that serve to color our perceptions. We get to be the scope, the vessel through which we “see” God or not and, I choose to think that we are the vessels through which God sees Itself. We get to choose how near, how far, how colorful or not at all. Namaste.

  19. My primary comment is that, for many (I might even say most) Anglicans, Bishop Spong isn’t considered one. Actually, when he denied the concept of redemptive blood (which he did in one article), he also slipped out of the category considered Christian (according to the faith’s earliest tenants). It takes more than a collar, a Shepherd’s crook and a miter to make a Bishop.

    It is perfectly valid for him to state his own beliefs. What is not valid is for him to label them Christian. This is one of those points that Tim C. mentioned….that area where there are certain things that go along with the territory (Christianity).

    Here we have the perfect example of the conundrum Tim was posing, and I was trying to explain about in my journey: I can honor your RIGHT to your belief system, Frank/Merrill. I can honor your RIGHT to believe it and that you are faithful in your practices and your practices lead you to caring spiritual acts. But I CANNOT say “What you believe is right.” Because to do so would be to deny the core beliefs of my faith. I must live by those tenants. That means I cannot embrace your beliefs.

    That said, in order to embrace MY beliefs, I must hold YOU in as much love and care as I hold myself and not interfere or judge you or denigrate you for your faith. The only judge of any human soul is God.

    The rest of us must just live what we believe in the best way we can and strive to love/serve/care for everyone. Even those who completely disbelieve what we believe and we completely disbelieve what THEY believe

    Yours in Christ

    • I have no conundrum because I can say with belief, clarity and conviction that you, Patti, et al, are one of us bringing onto the stage of life your version of Christianity for us to ponder. You, on the other hand cannot say that we are one with you. The only way you can embrace us is by honoring ;your own belief about loving your neighbor as yourself. It’s understandable and, you are not alone. Each religion stands in a belief of its own truth. Perhaps it’s that kaleidescope affect I talked about earlier. I look in and turn it a little and I see you. I turn it again and I see me but we’re both looking through the one glass called God.

  20. And though I must continue to say the truth as I know it (even if it contradicts yours), it is my most fervent desire and hope that THAT is EXACTLY how God looks at it.

    Your friend,

    • Hugs to you, my friend…ooops….maybe to a staid Anglican it’s just supposed to be a handshake…..or maybe just, “Well said and Godspeed!” …Maybe all of the above. LOL….Frank

      • Methinks Patti is MUCH MORE than a staid Anglican. . . in fact, I’m hazarding a guess that she’d hug YOU first, Frank!

  21. Frank, Carmen, Patti, and Merrill:
    I can’t add much to this excellent dialogue except to ditto what you’ve all said; while we each seek the truth according to our own lights, we must define it for ourselves. For Patti and me, its the traditional/Anglican path; Frank, Merrill, and Carmen have chose different ways, with which I may not agree but in no way diminishes the love we ought to have for each other. As Patti said, we should leave the judging to God and concentrate on the conversion of our own hearts.

    P.S. I need all your prayers no matter what your faith tradition; in a couple of hours we’re going to my son’s high school graduation party and I have to sit through six hours of conversations that start with the word “Like” and heaven knows what kind of music. LOL!

    • You have my prayers. I had to laugh when you talked about “conversations that start with the word ‘Like'” — I am an avid fan of Judge Judy and she has warned several young people who are testifying in her court: “Forget the word, “Like”….I don’t want to hear, “Like”. She is also opposed to “basically”….She doesn’t want to hear anyone start out with the words, “Well, basically what happened….” She has a heck of a time reading text messages as well and swears that good English spelling will soon be forgotten. The times they are a-changin’.

  22. lol….don’t EVEN get me started on what I think of texting. Of course, I must hang my head in shame because I, too, have succumbed to the damage of the digital age…..I have become accustomed to right clicking to check out my incorrect spellings. (Hangs head.) Of which there are many more now than there used to be. But I CAN remember how to spell “u” correctly!

  23. Corinna et al: (sorry, I can never figure out just who ‘al’ is, but a lot of people seem to know him)….

    I have been really out of this loop, and it was really a delight to sit down and catch up with old friends on a Sunday afternoon! Corinna must be sitting back with a smile as she sees the fruit of her search. This has proven to be a wonderful journey, Corinna, and I’m sure you must be feeling a great sense of satisfaction.

    Tim, I add my ‘amen’ to the chorus of those who have said you’ve been spot on in your posts. As a Christian who has been involved in larger churches (but I thank God not a megachurch….therefore I must be better than them, right?….don’t answer that) I must say that there are some good people involved in many of them, but the temptation is certainly to take on an air of self-righteousness. There’s a comment by James in his letter: “Don’t many of you be teachers.” They will be judged more strictly….they will have an awful lot to answer for. Jesus was harder on teachers than just about anyone else….they kept leading people astray. I think one of you mentioned in a comment on a post long ago and far away about power corrupting….I’ve seen it in others and I’ve seen it in myself. Rather humbling….

  24. Thanks for your prayers. We survived his party and it was like, the most amazing, um, thing, like ever, okay?!

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