You cannot be Christian and...

I saw a sticker which read, "You can't be Catholic and pro-abortion."

First off I am not sure anyone is pro-abortion, even those who advocate for choice are not advocating abortions only the freedom to choose.

That aside, it is curious to me the number of dichotomies that are set up in order to create in and out groups among my Christian brothers and sisters.

If history serves me correctly then there was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and uncircumcised. There was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and embracing of civil rights. There was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and gay. There was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and in the army. There was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and not be a Capitalist. There was a time when people thought you could not be Christian and a whole slew of things.

The fact of the matter is there is always a flux in understanding what it means to be a Christian. There is always a continuum that all Christians fall into. Rest assured that somewhere someone does not think you are a Christian. What is often forgotten is that what makes one a Christian is not beliefs - it never has been about beliefs.

Beyond Orthodox and Orthopraxy

Ortho - from the Greek 


 ("right", "true", "straight")

Dox - from the Greek 


 ("opinion" or "belief", related to 


, "to think"

Much of the church focuses on the "right belief" of the parishioners. Many of the conversations I have with people are rooted in what is orthodox Christian thought and what is not. The current state of the Church places a premium on orthodox thought. The thing is orthodox thought is not just the idol of the Church but of our world. We have a desire to ensure that people have the right thoughts on things. 

This is not a "bad" thing, but when orthodoxy is out of balance with orthopraxy (p

rax - from the Greek 


"action", "activity") then things get a little weird. This imbalance can be seen when members of the Church will preach love but stand stand on corners and condemn the "heretics" (heresy - from the Greek 


 meaning "able to choose"). 

Arguing orthodox thought happens in the world of science as well as the debate of climate change rages on or the debates of the mysteries of the world continue to perplex the mind.

The church spends a lot of time getting people to orthodox thought. For instance, the church teaches people that it is a good thing to give of their time, talents gifts and service to the world. The belief that giving is a good thing is "orthodox" in Christian thought, and the church is a place to instill that idea into the minds of people. 

In order to ensure that orthodox is not out of balance, there is orthopraxy - which has come to mean "doing the right things". It is not enough to intellectually know about the importance of giving, but if you want to be a Christian you must


give. It is in the doing of faith that faith is given flesh. It is the whole, "It is not what you say but it is what you do" mentality. Orthopraxy is meant to be a counter-weight to orthodoxy.

But like all weight and counter-weights, this creates a dichotomy that ends up pitting one against the other. So you have people in the church that place the importance on ensuring people have the right beliefs and then there are people who are not concerned with beliefs but are invested to ensure we are doing right actions. Christians talk about the balance between "faith" and "works".

The problem is that Christianity is not dualistic in thought or deed. What sets Christianity apart is the Trinitarian nature of our understanding of God. This is the Good News of Jesus, there is a third way that is not being held up in this conversation between orthodoxy and orthopraxy and it is this third way, which breaks the dichotomy of faith and works, that will be the topic of the next post.

It is not about taxes, it is about trust

Taxes are always a hot button issue. People believe that the money they earn is theirs and they do not want anyone putting their hands into their bank accounts. So every election season people protest when any talk of a tax raise might be needed. And when these talks happen, people sometimes look foolish.

For instance, here is this sign in protest:

You may be thinking - how can a government run program stay out of the government run program?

I don't know. This sort of thinking runs amok when taxes are discussed. All sort of people get irrational.

The bottom line in this post is that paying taxes is not the issue. It is that we have a growing distrust. We just do not trust others to take care of our money. We believe that we are better managers of our money than anyone else and, if given the opportunity, we could do what others do at a lower cost and faster.

It is not about taxes, it is about trust. When we do not trust our fellow persons, then we will rail against anything that forces us to trust them.

So we rail against taxes.
Members (and many times clergy) of the UMC rail against apportionments and the appointment process.
We rail against FOXNews or MSNBC.
We rail against God when things don't go a desired way.
We rail against other drivers while we ourselves are guilty of poor driving habits.
We rail against our bosses who "don't know what they are doing."

It really has very little to do with the issue(s) voiced, it has everything to do with trust. When we trust others then the level of angst goes way down.

The concern from this clergy person's stand point is that the more we are secularized the less trust is promoted between people. The more we rail against the machine of government the less trust there is. The more we think others are idiots and we are immune to irrationality the less trust there is.

Books Ngram Viewer

In case you have not yet seen the Google project called "Ngram" then you are missing out on interesting data that is more fruitful than "Facebook trolling" all day long.  

The essence of Ngram is being able to see the frequency of words that have been published in a massive number of books over time.  So assume you wanted to see how often the words, "faith, hope, love" appear in in books since the year 1800, you will see this graph:

As you can see all three have been in decline for decades and are hovering at all time lows.  

However, if you search Faith, Hope, Love you get this graph:

The only difference is the first letter of each word is capitalized.  Love is making a strong comeback (notice the big dip in the early 1940's we have not finally recovering from) and Faith and Hope are on the up swing as well.  Does this mean there are more sentences beginning with Faith, Hope or Love then they are being used in the middle of the sentence?  Does this mean there are more books with these words in the titles?  

I believe Dan Pink posted this originally but it is worth Christians taking a serious look at as well.

Can you image that?  "hope" has been dominating "fear" for the vast majority of time and now they are in a dead heat.  

In the spirit of taking into account "case sensitivity" take a look at "Hope" and "Fear".

"Hope" is still in the lead (the 1940's dip is not nearly as intense in this situation), but "Fear" is at all time highs!

How is it that if we are a "Christian Nation" as some people would contend, then how is it that the Christian message of Hope is in rapid decline and Fear is taking more ground?  How is it that this so called "Christian nation" has forgotten that with God there is nothing to fear/Fear?  Is the current incarnation of the message of Christianity so watered down or irrelevant that Fear/fear is given permission to even have a foothold in a world full of Hope/hope?  

At the very lease it is good there is a lot of Love/love as it is said that it is the greatest of things.