Charlottesville and a Christ-less Christianity

White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville

I’m still thinking about Charlottesville.  A lot of us are.

As a Christ-follower and pastor I am especially interested in the spiritual context in which these events of Charlottesville happened.

The symbols of the Charlottesville protests are familiar:

Confederate Flags.

Nazi Flags.

Nazi salutes.

We’re not as familiar with the spirituality of the symbols.

The symbols represent what I see as a “Christianity with Christ.”

Both Nazism and the Klan draw deep from the well of a “Christ-less Christianity. “

Nazi Germany was both a product of, and established in, Christian Europe.  Hitler’s favorite bed-time reading was Martin Luther.  Luther, though doing many good things (pretty good with a hammer and nail) was not perfect in his theology and practice – who is?
One view of Luther’s, embraced by Hitler, was his anti- Semitism.  Luther hated Jews.  I mean a deep down in his gut, burn down their houses, cut off their limbs, drown them, murder them, kind of hatred.

“Set fire to their synagogues or schools,” Luther wrote.

Jewish houses should be “razed and destroyed.”

“Force them to work, and deal harshly with them.”

“They must be driven from our country like mad dogs.”

Could the seed of Hitler’s hatred for and extermination of the Jews been planted by Luther?

Sure seems so.

On the night of November 10, 1938, Nazis killed Jews, shattered glass windows, and destroyed hundreds of synagogues.  Bishop Martin Sasse, a leading Lutheran pastor, immediately saw the connection between this event and Luther’s writings.  Shortly after the event, he published a collection of Luther’s anti-Semitic works.  In the forward, he applauded the “Kristallnacht” (The Night of Broken Glass), especially since it occurred on Luther’s birthday.  He also wrote that the German people should pay attention to the writings of Luther, who was the “greatest anti-Semite of this time, the warner of his people against the Jews.”

In his novel, “Mein Kampf,” Hitler himself named Luther as one of history’s reformers.  Hitler played the Jesus card.  In a speech on April 12, 1922, Hitler said,

“In boundless love, as a Christian and a human being, I read the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in his might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple broods of vipers and adders.  How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.  I realize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that he had to shed his blood upon the cross.”

Also, in “Mein Kampf,” Hitler wrote, “By destroying the Jews, I am fighting Christ’s battles.”

Have you heard anything like the following?  “The national government…will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of out nation rests.  It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality.”  That statement is from none other than Adolf Hitler.  I guess not everyone who wants to protect Christianity is a Christian.

What kind of Christianity did Hitler want to protect?  On what kind of Christianity did Hitler base their “collective morality?”

On April 26, 1933, Hitler signed the Nazi-Vatican Concordat (Treaty) and said, “Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without religious foundation is built on air; consequently  all character training and religion must be derived from faith.”  I think I hear some “Amens!”

One last quote from Hitler.  It’s a clincher.  It’s from a speech he made in 1934 at Koblenz: “National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary it stands on the ground of a real Christianity.”  Wait.  One more…There are so many:  “We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the idea of Christianity…in fact our movement is Christian.”  

If you operate on the “A picture is worth a thousand words” philosophy, check out this “God With Us” belt buckle from Nazi German and a baptismal font showing Jesus hanging with Nazi soldiers:

god_with_ustruth-christ-church4

Is it possible that Christian teaching supplied the fuel for the crematoria?  Did Christian doctrine pave the way for the poison that filled the showers?  Did Christian teaching lead Germany’s church leaders to advocate murdering six million Jews?

I’m afraid so.  A Christ-less Christianity.  A love-less religion.

We are  more familiar with the connection between the KKK and Christianity.  This pic makes me laugh and scream at the same time.  It’s crazy.  It’s scary.KKK-Christian-Prayer-Meeting-1

The Christian connection still exists and is a prominent feature of the KKK.  Check out this note from kkknights.com, “Our goal is to help restore America to a white Christian nation, founded on God’s Word.” Or this one Frank Ancona, the imperial wizard of the Traditional American Knights of the KKK, “We are a Christian organization.”  

One of the organizers of the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville was the neo-Confederate “League of the South.” Under the “Core Beliefs” section on their website are these words, “…our primary allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church.”  

I know.  Unbelievable.  My hands were shaking as I typed those words.

What does this mean?

First, we’ve all sighed with frustration over the, “We don’t recognize the user ID or password” error message we get when trying to log on to something.   I think I hear Jesus sighing as he looks at the Christianity practiced by these groups:  “I don’t recognize your Christian ID.”

The Christianity practiced by these hate groups is not Jesus.  

Is mine?  I have to look at my life, my behavior, my attitudes and ask, “Does my Christianity look like Christ?”  “Does Jesus look at me and say, ‘Yep, I recognize you as one of mine.’” “I see the love. I see the ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’”

Second, we need to admit that our brand of Christianity has failed to teach people to love others as they love themselves.  How can people continue to sit in our sanctuaries and Bible study classes and harbor hate toward others?  “And may the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

Third, Luke writes that Saul “was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s followers” (Acts 9:1). The word “breathing out” is literally to “inhale” – “en pneo” – “in breathe.”  What I breathe in, I breathe out.   I need to spend some time each day breathing – breathing in the character and love of Jesus.  What I breathe in, I breathe out.

Fourth, let’s speak.  Let’s act.  “Where there is hatred, let us sow love.” 

Lord, save me from a “Christ-less Christianity.”

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A New Way to See

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What do you see when you look at the above pic of Col. Sanders?

1.  The KFC founder with a cool “Western” or “String” Bow Tie? or,

2.  The KFC founder with a big head and a tiny stickman body?

The original KFC logo with the pic of the Colonel came out in 1952.

I was born in 1956.  Until today, I have looked at that pic and seen option 1 – The Colonel with a cool tie.  Today, someone pointed out to me option 2.

They’re right.  It does look like a big head with a tiny stickman body.

Now, it’s all I see.

I can’t unsee it.

What that person did with Col Sanders, Jesus does with life.  Jesus didn’t draw pictures but he told picture-stories. We call them parables. Jesus used parables to not only help us see things more clearly; but more often than not, his parables were told to help us see things differently!

When Jesus finished his stories, people found themselves slapping their foreheads and exclaiming, “Wow!  I’ve never thought of it that way!”

Let me give you a “for instance.”  It’s recorded in Luke 10:25-37.  Jesus is in a conversation with an expert in the Law of Moses, who asks Jesus a fundamental question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life.”  As far as questions go, it doesn’t get any bigger than that!

The answer given by Jesus isn’t found in most “Gospel Tracts”:  Love God and love your neighbor as yourself…Do this and you will live.”

Out of this came another question from the Lawyer: “Ok, then, who is my neighbor?”  

Luke says the Lawyer was trying to “justify himself”  – “looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define neighbor?’” is how “The Message” puts it.

The religious expert was trying to determine who he did and did not have to love.

So, Jesus told a story.  We call it “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”

Isn’t it interesting that, in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus does not give a straightforward answer?

He could have handed the lawyer a list of people to love.

He could have given a catalogue of characteristics to look for in people whom he should love.

He does not.

Instead, he tells a story.

A story is ambiguous.

A list is straightforward and simplistic.

These are interesting times.  Some familiar landmarks have shifted and some people are anxious, worried, scared, angry. They want unambiguous, straightforward answers.

And Jesus tells  a story.

It’s a story that presents another way of looking at things…

At people.

At religion.

We don’t always like to look at something in a new way.   We like the old way.  The way it looked before.

And so we shut out people.  We shut out ideas.

The original hearers of Jesus’ story were not just surprised.  They were shocked.  The hero of the story is not a person of their own race or religion.  He’s a Samaritan!

“What?  Did you hear that? Can you believe he said that?  A Samaritan?!  Come on now!  This is too much.  He’s really crossed the line this time.  He’s been in the sun too long.  He stayed too long with the wine at that wedding.”

But, I think Jesus knew exactly what he was doing.  With this picture-story, Jesus is saying, “All people even people you don’t like, you don’t understand, who don’t share your values, who don’t vote like you, who don’t look like you, who don’t love like you, are your neighbors.”

It was, for them, a new way of thinking and seeing.

It’s a new way for us.

But it’s His way.

I hope His way is all I will ever see.

Don’t Know Much About History

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Happy Columbus Day. It’s not a big holiday.  There are no Columbus Day parties, unless you’re a school kid.  Any day that school is out is a party.  Some people take advantage of some Columbus Day sales, but that’s about it.

Some people didn’t realize it was Columbus Day until they went out to their mailbox and found it empty. “What’s up?” “Where’s the mail?” “Oh yeah, it’s Columbus Day.”

I grew up in a time when Columbus was seen as a hero.  Do you remember this line from a poem, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”  How cute.

And then I was taught by Christian leaders who described in glowing terms Columbus’ commitment to Christ and sense of mission to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people who were “living in darkness and the shadow of death” (A quote from Columbus’ journal).

Columbus’ writings, though, show another side to the guy who got a holiday named after him.  Alongside claims that he is doing his work for God’s glory, he writes in his journal on October 12, 1492, the first day he encountered the native people of the Americas, that “they should be good servants…I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highness.”  Columbus promises, in a report to the Court in Madrid, “as much gold as they need…and as many slaves as they ask.”  He even gives God credit for his “success”: “Thus an eternal God, our Lord, gives victory to those who follow His way over apparent impossibilities.”  When a large percentage of the Indians died in transit, Columbus wrote, “Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold.”

In the prologue of his journal, Columbus writes, “Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and Princes who love the  holy Christian faith, and the propagation of it, and who are enemies to the sect of Mahoma (Islam) and to all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Cristobal Colon, to the said parts of India…with a view that they might be converted to our holy faith…Thus, after having turned out all the Jews from all your kingdoms and lordships…your Highnesses gave orders to me that with a sufficient fleet I should go to the said parts of India…”

Columbus was familiar with persecution and murder before arriving in the New World.  The day before Columbus left Spain, all of the Jews in Spain were required to leave.  During the time that Columbus was preparing for his voyage, an estimated 30,000 Spanish Jews were burned at the stake for their failure to convert to Christianity.  That’s some strategy for evangelism.

The list of gruesome acts attributed to Columbus against the island natives go on and on – rape, torture, sex-trade – things that just don’t jive with “spreading the Gospel” or “bearing the light of Christ” (the meaning of the name “Christopher”), and things that just didn’t make it into Little Johnny’s history books.

I realize I’m treading on sacred ground for some.  It is not my intent to disrespect or cast dispersion on someone who has been revered by so many.  It is my intent to face honestly any evidence uncovered by historians.  The title of the post applies to me.  I don’t know much about history or many of the other areas of study mentioned in the song from which that line is taken.  But I don’t want my preconceived ideas to prevent me from facing whatever truth is revealed.  For some  historians’ perspective, check out these links:

http://www.history.com/topics/columbus-controversy

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/aug/07/books.spain

Reading Columbus’ own words from his own journal,  and seeing the evidence uncovered by historians, what do we do with this?

1. Remember the line, “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

2. Some say Columbus was just a product of his time and culture.  Does that excuse behavior that goes against the character of Jesus?   What am I doing that may characterize me as a “product of my culture” but that contradicts the character of Jesus?

3. How do I see people?  Columbus obviously didn’t see the islanders through the eyes of Jesus.  How about me?  Through whose I eyes do I see people?

4.  In some way, Columbus’ journeys played a part in the founding of the United States – the freest country on earth.  That’s a good thing.   I’m glad to be an American.  I’m also a Christian – living in the kingdom of Christ.   I have to make sure my values and behaviors are determined not by my citizenship in America but by my citizenship in His Kingdom.

Happy Day.

A New Way of Life at Moody Bible Institute

Image“Booze no longer banned!”  This was the headline that shook up a lot of church folks when it appeared on September 27.  Moody Bible Institute (MBI), a long-time bastion of conservative theology has dropped its ban on alcohol and tobacco consumption by its 600-some faculty and staff.

Some “slippery slope” folks are worried.

So, what’s up?

Insiders say that this change at Moody, which was founded by the 19th century evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, is a smart business move.  According to board member and author, Jerry Jenkins (have you heard of Left Behind?)  potential faculty and staff were put off by Moody having a “bunch of lists of rules,” calling the list “kind of pharisaical.”

“Bunch of lists of rules” and “kind of pharisaical” bring up a more significant issue – an issue of the very heart of Christianity.  To me, this really isn’t about alcohol. It’s about Christianity.

Christianity is Jesus.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Christianity is a person.  Christianity is not a performance.

Being a Christian doesn’t revolve around or even involve a list of do’s and don’ts.
Being a good Christian means understanding that Jesus is our life and allowing Him to live through us.  It is the person of Jesus performing His life through us – His life, His love, His values.

We can’t look at a list of rules and focus on Jesus at the same time (Galatians 5:1-5; Hebrews 12:1-2).  In fact, rules are the very things that “hinder” us from being and behaving “Christianly.”

As we live out our connection with Him, our behavior will take care of itself!

Let’s go back to the Moody decision.  According to Christine Gorz, VP of Marketing and Communications at MBI, the decision reflected a desire to create a “high trust environment that emphasizes values, not rules.”

Inherent in a rules-based faith is control – control people’s behavior.
Inherent in a Christ-based faith is trust – helping each other depend on, trust in the Spirit to live out the life of Christ in us (Galatians 5:16).

Way to go Moody.