The Death of Christianity (A Cautionary Tale)

old church desat

Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
Matthew 23:38 (KJV)

Sometime in the future…

It sat off the side of the road, in a field of growth.  You could easily miss it, even on a sunny day like it was today. I found an untouched section on driveway that led into an abandoned parking lot. I was able to park my vehicle in that section. I turned off my vehicle, grabbed my camera, and stepped out into the midday autumn sun.

I walked up a weedy drive, thanking God that I had on jeans and hiking boots on case of bugs. I can see the building clearer as I neared it.

It was an abandoned church-a “worship center” it was called.  If I told you the name, you’d recognize it. I could pick up the faint scent of decay thanks to the breeze that was blowing. I could see part of the facade gone from neglect, allowing me a glimpse inside.

Sunlight streamed into the interior from a hole in the roof. The floor before me was strewn with garbage, leaves and branches. Graffiti was scrawled on the walls. I started to snap pictures. I then produced a flashlight and shone it before me.  A small flock of birds flew out into the day at the sound of my footfalls.

I could see wrecked pieces of Christian iconography that probably greeted visitors in days past. The photos for me were a goldmine for my research work. You see, I am a professor of religious studies back in the city; my field of study was Late Christianity.  “Late Christianity” was a subject that dealt with the Christian Church from the 1980s up until our time.

You can see Bibles and hymn books scattered about as I entered the sanctuary-a large circular room that probably held a few hundred.  Onto one side was the pulpit with chancel behind it.  I could also see a semi-circular balcony above.  Part of the roof fell with what appeared to be a couple of large video monitors.  I shone my light about although I had plenty of daylight coming in.  I then proceeded to the pulpit.

The pulpit was intact, and to my surprise, had some power.  It was one of those late-model pulpits with a built in computer which allowed the speaker to access their message and other information in real time.  I hung my camera around my neck and tinkered with the controls.

This pulpit’s computer still had sermons archived in its hard drive.  From what I could see by the titles, this pastor was typical of Late Christianity.  Sermons denouncing Gays/Lesbians, sermons criticizing social programs, sermons that spoke of what a woman’s “place” should be (according to the Bible); sermons denying climate change, the list was endless.  I could also see that this pastor had access to offering tallies on real time (probably to goad more dough from the members).  It was a gold mine of info I wish I could download into my personal smart-pad.

“Interesting, isn’t it?” A woman’s voice asked.

My head shot up to find a dark-skinned woman with long braided graying hair looking right at me.  She was tall and slender, yet had a nice shape.  She wore one of those knit hooded tops you see in Mexico with jeans and hiking boots.  Jewelry adorned her rather plain appearance.  Despite her nice appearance, I almost jumped out of my skin!

“Geez Sister!” I exclaimed, “Where did you come from?”

“Been here for a bit,” She replied matter of fact, “I wondered when you’d come by.”

I was puzzled by her statement.  I stepped down to meet my visitor.  Despite her sudden appearance, I didn’t feel any bad vibes about her.  In fact, she emanated some deep vibes.

“You’ve been here?” I asked.

My friend nodded her head, “For a bit, like I said.  I used to be here when this place was jumping, however….”  She trailed off and looked about.

To be mannerly, I introduced myself.  The woman said to call her “Sophia.”  Sophia then offered to take me on a tour.  Sophia spoke as we walked.

“This was one of the last big churches in the area.  By the close of the last century, Christianity in this nation was very big.  I saw how it tried to control even the very government that was created not to be controlled by the Church.

“However, Christianity started getting too big for its britches.  It became an organization instead of the organism that it was intended to be-as Jesus spoke of.”

“I know,” I remarked, “I remembered its long history in trying to shape American politics in the old days; even tried to shape politics overseas.”

We walked into a side hall where offices sat. You can see the furniture and equipment was looted.  Sophia led me into the church’s business office.

“This was where a lot of business took place,” Sophia told me, “Unfortunately it wasn’t the Divine type.”

All about there were pages of computer printouts showing contributions made to various organizations we used to call, “Right Wing” or “Conservative.”  I recognize some of the names which were highly controversial in their day.  I remember my parents protesting some of those groups back in the day.  I told this to Sophia.

Sophia nodded her head, “These were not Christian organizations, save in name,” She said, “I never knew why they involved themselves with such groups.  Not just here, but in a lot of churches in this country.  I saw how many of them traded prophecy for politics, love for intolerance, and compassion for criticism.  Now judgement’s come upon these people.”

I could relate to Sophia.  My subject matter I taught included the fall of American Christianity.  How by the first quarter of the 21st Century, the Church in America became an anachronism.  How the Church’s stance against sexuality, gender equality, science, and social welfare caused it to alienate many-young and old.  I grew up seeing many of my friends becoming Atheist, or at best Agnostic.  My parents-albeit Christian-never darkened the doors of a church since they felt the Church was phony.  Even in my community-the urban community-educated non-Whites left a stagnant church in the cold as Atheism rose in said community.  Even the Jews and Muslims saw a drop in their ranks, which was a shock to many.   Sophia continued her talk.

“When the Church drifted away from the Divine and started to embrace the seduction of worldly power, its days were numbered.  When Christians attacked-instead of engaged-differing beliefs, it became like a rabid dog that eventually got put down.”  She turned to me as we left the office, “You knew how this church fell?”

I remembered.  A young girl was raped in the community and nearly left for dead.  The pastor said it was the girl’s fault (even though it wasn’t) and shamed her publicly.  The girl’s single father who raised her, tried to sue the church but couldn’t due to the members in local government.  Dad (and recovered daughter) took to social media and connected with a lot of influential people which put an embarrassing spotlight on the church.  Also during the elections, it was discovered that the church was rigging the elections in favor for its members that were running.  Well this time, non-members were elected and began a massive crackdown on the church.

Then it was discovered that the pastor and one of his (male) ministers were having young people on “retreats” that wound up sexual in nature.  The pastor and minister were arrested-without bail-and were tried. Both men were convicted and put behind bars.  To make things worse, the families of the young victims turned and sued the church-draining it of its onetime large bank accounts.  Embarrassed members left and the place fell into disrepair.  To add insult to injury, a bunch of locals held a Black Mass in the sanctuary!  To this day, the pastor and minister were still behind bars.

As we passed classrooms designed for children, I could see images of the European Jesus many predominately White churches had.

“You see they created a Jesus that many could not relate to,” Sophia remarked, “Even the ‘colorized’ Jesus in non-White churches didn’t help.  The church turned the man who taught about love and mercy into a bully that showed no mercy.  They reinforced the myth that one race was ‘holier’ than others,” Sophia shook her head sadly, “Then these churches wondered why no one wanted to go to them.”

Sophia talked about how in the later days, the American Church attacked everything it could: Gays and Lesbians; women; the poor and marginalized; people of different faiths; science; etc.  How the Christian Church espoused hateful values, calling them “family values.”  How God tried to talk to them by sending Christians that were Christlike in their approach.  Sadly, those Christlike ones were turned away.

Then Sophia said that God had enough and took His/Her hand off of the Church.  Overnight, every nightmare the Church could think of happened.  From the least, dwindling memberships; to the worst, scandals and bankruptcies.  It was an overnight event that not only impacted American churches, it also impacted churches all across the globe.  Even the Vatican felt the impact as its revenues shrank and membership dwindled.  Missions across the globe starved as donor churches went belly up.  Young members-the “future” of the church-left the fold to follow their own path.  And despite all the praying, cajoling, and bargaining, God did not budge.

“Then, one day, this…” Sophia added with a sweeping gesture, “Overnight, everything died.”  She shook her head, “How different things could have been.  How the Church could have stood up for the marginalized, the poor, the environment, the ‘other.’  How the Church could have been the first in line for change, instead of the last-only after pressure form the outside.  Now it’s gone, and Christianity is its collateral damage…”  Sophia sighed.

I thought I saw a tear come down Sophia’s cheek.  I reached over and brushed it off.

“Pardon me,” Sophia said with a faint smile, “It’s a tragedy that still hurts me…”

Eventually we returned to the outside.  I took plenty of pictures for my upcoming classes, plus I was getting hungry for lunch.  I offered Sophia a ride into town; she declined.

Then Sophia reached out and placed a friendly hand on my shoulder.  I could feel an electric sensation from her touch.

“You go on,” Sophia said, “We’ll talk later.”

Sophia stepped back and suddenly turned into a ball of white-gold light.  I was immediately transfixed by what I saw.  Then I gasped when I realized…

“Oh my God…” I gasped.

“Yes it is…” I could hear Sophia’s chuckling voice.  The ball soon faded and left me alone.  For some reason, I didn’t feel sad.  Instead, I felt energized!  I turned for my vehicle…

…And to the future…

THE END

This story is just a cautionary tale for us in the Church.  If we don’t get our act together, God may decide to “pull the plug” on us and let us die.  Thanks for reading despite its length.

Peace!

 

 

 

 

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On Meditation

Many Christians have a hard time wrapping their religious minds around meditation.  They think it’s allowing evil thoughts to come into one’s life (or the devil); that it’s “not Christian” (then again what is truly “Christian”); or they just blow it off as unimportant.  However, I’m discovering that meditation is sorely needed by Christians-especially the Fundagelical types here in the West-with all the spiritual baggage we carry.

Now when it comes to meditation, I found that learning to drive manual shift was easier.  I really had no time or inclination to meditate.  However, in attempts to enhance my road trip here on Earth, I realize that part of my travel kit would have to be meditation.  In fact, the Psalms have verses where the psalmists speak of meditating on Scripture.  Slowly, yet surely, I’m incorporating meditation into my practices.

For those who want to try meditating, yet find it as daunting as piloting an airliner, the attached video should put your mind at ease.  I’m finding this video very helpful and takes the “worries” out of meditation.

In fact, in contrast to the Fundagelical worries about meditation being in “league with the devil,” I find meditation puts me in closer with the Divine.  So many Fundagelicals walk around and bemoan all the issues in their lives because they don’t meditate.  Meditation helps you to slow down, to get into a whole different consciousness than normal; shit, may even help you feel better.  This may even start to tone down our violent tendencies we tend to embrace all too quickly.

I’m not saying you “ought” to meditate-your spiritual road trip’s different than mine.  However, if you thought about it, maybe it’s something you would want to consider.

Peace!

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Rest…

We all need some rest...

We all need some rest…

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

Just for a moment’s rest. Just a moment to step back from the cares of this life. Sometimes it’s as if all the world’s burdens seem to crash down on your shoulders. People asking more and more from your less and less. Family and household responsibilities pull on you. Church obligations multiply like the proverbial rabbits where members pull on you for various reasons; and pastor asks for increased service. Your day job feels more like a marathon as you navigate through endless assignments, meetings, and projects…

And it never ends.  You feel as if you’re dragged about and your personal cup is “running over” with responsibilities.  You just want to step back a moment and rest.  Not so much go to sleep, but just to be able to just chill and detox all the stuff inside you.  Sometimes you got to step back and say “whoa.”

Without a time to rest, to pause, we can easily end up “weary in well doing.” We’ll find ourselves burning out, shutting down, and eventually tuning everything and everyone out-all of which can be quite dangerous. We hear all too often tales of clergy and minister burnout in the Church. Caregiver burnout or illnesses that develop while caring for another. Job stresses a common problem in the workplace. And we have family providers mentally and emotionally checking out on their families when they’re needed the most. All this complicated thanks to our multitasking spirit which pervades modern culture.

To rest is not laziness; on the contrary. Rest gives us the opportunity to recharge our batteries-spiritual, mental and physical. Rest also gives us the opportunity to detox ourselves from the accumulated spiritual “junk” we receive as spiritual beings.

Jesus provided rest for our souls; and we need that rest even more today. We can look to Jesus for rest, where we can unload and unwind. Jesus will also recharge our spirits for the journey ahead. This is not “escapism”as some would contend; it’s tapping into that Divine power that Jesus tapped into. Power that we can rest in-allowing ourselves to be empowered. Rest can be through physical rest, meditation, mindful physical activity, even worship can be a form of this rest.

Then empowered, we can face our responsibilities head on through Christ who strengthens us. For it’s in Christ we have rest for our souls.

Peace.

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Now What Are We Going to Do?

It’s interesting that we Americans never take the time to understand what happens in other parts of the world until what’s happening winds up in our backyards.

For months, the Ebola virus has been taking lives in West Africa.  Save for the group Doctors Without Borders, many have been slow on the response to the growing crisis.  Even the World Health Organization admitted its slow response.  President Obama ordered 3000 military personnel to West Africa (200 are there as of the beginning of this month).  And West African nations, already struggling with internal issues, now have to wrestle this microbe-sized monster that can wreak such death, illness and heartache.  For the most part, it was a West African problem.

Until this past week, when a Liberian man visited a Dallas (as in Texas, United States) hospital with an unwelcome traveling companion: the Ebola virus.  Now remember, we already had two Ebola cases here in the US; two relief workers contracted the disease.  However the two relief workers knew about their contracting the disease; were jetted here under controlled conditions; and were hospitalized at Emory in Atlanta under controlled conditions prepared for the disease.  However our Liberian friend walked into a public hospital and tested positive for Ebola post-facto.

Now it gets interesting.  People in Dallas are getting nervous.  Although no danger reported so far, there is that nagging question, “Could it spread?”  I can bet you a night on the town that people throughout this land of ours are wondering what if someone infected arrived in their town?  I’ll even bet you another night on the town that someone in Europe is starting to wonder what if….?

Now what are we going to do?  Are we going to seriously work with our West African fellows to contain Ebola before it spreads further; and to get first-hand experiential knowledge in dealing with the disease?  Are we going to realize that thanks to modern high-speed air-travel that diseases like Ebola can reach other parts of the globe in hours?  That one infected person can potentially infect others within a closed, pressurized space of an aircraft cabin which air they share for several hours?  And if said infected victims manage to pass our security checkpoints and get out into the public-especially urban areas like Dallas-what will we do then?

Will we finally realize that what happens “over there” today can happen over here tomorrow?

Now, what are we going to do?

Peace.

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Such A Time As This

 

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Esther 4:14 (KJV)

This is the time, and we are the people.  Today, more than ever, we need prophetic voices to cry out.  To cry out for deliverance from he ills that are destroying us as a people.

Recently, we saw people come out en masse in New York City to take a stand for the environment during the United Nations Climate Summit, people are protesting the rash of acts of police brutality, there is a standup against domestic and sexual abuse…people are standing up.

It’s high time those of us in the Boardinghouse of Faith do likewise.  God calls for us to stand up for the victims of evil.  To stand up for our one and only home: Earth.  To stand up for the victims-dead and alive-of police brutality.  To stand up against domestic abuse and sexual assault.  We’re called to be the “voice that crieth in the wilderness”, whether it’s from the pulpit or the pew.  And for a time as such, we need to get to work.  We don’t have time to dither over trivialities like, “defense of marriage” and teaching Creationism in public schools.

The post’s text is taken from the Book of Esther.  Esther’s older cousin, Mordecai found out about Haman’s plan to exterminate the Jews living in Persia (present day Iran), two of which were Mordecai and Esther.  Esther, who was made queen by the king, Ahasuerus, was asked by Mordecai to intercede with Ahasuerus on the Jews behalf.  At first, Esther balked at the plan.  Mordecai-not taking no for an answer-dropped the above statement on Cuz, warning that deliverance could come from elsewhere but at the cost of her and her people’s demise; and that who’s to say that Esther wasn’t where she was for such a time as she and Mordecai were in.

The same with the Church-the Boardinghouse of Faith-today. Who’s not to say that God has placed us in this time to be the voice I spoke about earlier?  Are we going to accept what I believe is God’s challenge to us to speak up?  Or will we just “pray about it” and get back to more “important” issues like “marriage defense” and Creationism?  And if we reject such a challenge, who’s to say God may not rise up “deliverance” from outside the Church?  Who’s to say He/She may not call on “non-Christians” to do the work.  And then in the end, we silent Christians may find ourselves “destroyed” as in becoming an anachronism that will slowly fade into history’s sunset.

As I said in the beginning, this is the time and we are the people.  What are we going to do for such a time as this?

Peace.

(Above image:  On August 28th, more than 30 people gathered in Times Square to promote the People’s Climate March with illuminated signs. Photo courtesy of NYC Light Brigade, 2014 – See more at: http://tcktcktck.org/2014/09/mass-mobilization-accompany-un-climate-summit/64512#sthash.MVWj1EOW.dpuf)

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You Don’t Know My Name

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.  Matthew 7:21-23 (KJV)

Note: Thanks  to pianist and songstress Alicia Keys for the inspiration for the title.

One of my favorite Alicia Keys songs was the one that shares its title with this post. Here, Alicia sang about her frustration in getting to know a young man who apparently is oblivious to her.

Today’s Fundagelical Christians are pretty much the same lot. If Jesus was here right now, he would say the same thing.  I’ve learned over my 50+ years that Christianity (its evangelical variant) is a religion about Jesus; not following the teachings of Jesus.  Many parade their faith in front of everyone else-especially on Facebook-instead of living it. To paraphrase 2Live Crew, they walk around saying, “Me so holy” as if the world’s going to applaud them.  They talk about protecting marriage, bringing God back into (fill in the blank), running a democracy on the Ten Commandments, “family values,” and a whole host of other stuff.

However, ask one of these people about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, referring the homeless to a warm and dry bed, protesting injustices at every level, watching our for our children, etc, and you’ll probably be greeted with silence.  These are “busy” (busybody’s more like it) Christians that are flitting about like caffeine-stoked butterflies going from place to place talking about their “relationship” with Jesus.  Yet these same folk are not doing the work of Jesus mentioned in the beginning of this paragraph.  Like I said, they have a religion about Jesus, who’s nothing more than a name to drop and a supposed after-life insurance policy.

This is sad, because these people never took the time to know Jesus.  How?  By studying his words: what did the man really say?  What are the “hidden things” he told his disciples about the Kingdom/Queendom of God, which-according to said Jesus-is inside us?  Why dis he do what he did, risking everything including his life?  The longer I live, the more I’m convinced that Fundagelical Christians are like the man in Alicia’s song: they don’t know Jesus’ name.

What is Jesus’ name?  Glad you asked!  Jesus is a variant of Yeshua (his Jewish name), which mean “God is salvation” in Hebrew.  Now if we look at Jesus, he was the prototype of the life that God saves.  Saves from what?  Saves us from our (unhealthy) ego-driven lives: certainty; security; religiosity; concern with material rather than spiritual things; hatred; intolerance; and other things that have us live on a lower realm.  Look at Jesus-a man who was infused with God, who was free of all the shit that we carry around and yet was still human.  And that same “salvation” is offered to us today by looking to God (who is in us) and discovering who and what we truly are “in Christ”.  However, we don’t want to: we’re comfortable with a God “out there” based on what the Bible says while doing busy “church work.”

In the end, many of the Fundagelicals are going to run into Jesus and will be in for a spiritual “shock” when they realize that they never took the time to know him.  They will find themselves isolated and separated from him in their lives.  They’ll be the ones in churches still “seeking” God, and thinking that just “having faith” is going to help them.  They’ll be the ones busy “doing good.”  And they’ll be asking Jesus, “Lord didn’t we (fill in the blank) in your name?” And Jesus-like Alicia Keys-will say to them:

You don’t know my name…

Peace.

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Until WE Change…

PHOTO: In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Owings Mills, Md.

PHOTO: In this May 23, 2014, file photo, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife, Janay, during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Owings Mills, Md. (Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP). Image from abcnews.com

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.  Proverbs 26:11 (KJV)

The media is abuzz with the Ray Rice story.  Unless you were under a rock during the last week or so, what happened was that Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice was caught on videotape beating on his then fiancee, Janay Rice in an Atlantic City elevator back in February.  Since that revelation hit the airwaves, the Ravens cancelled Rice’s contract.  I’ve seen clips of the video myself on the news and find it disturbing.

However outraged people may be, there are those who still defend Rice and his actions.  One is Janay Rice herself.  The other is boxing champion Floyd Mayweather.  Plus, it’s came to light that the NFL knew about this video before we saw it for ourselves.  Plus, there are still women who will probably defend Rice; and will watch the game.

Don’t get me wrong-I do love some football.  However I see a bigger issue at hand.  Many of us in the US of A have turned sports celebrities like Rice into almost “gods”-especially in football.  Rice was not the first NFL player accused of domestic violence, or any major criminal infraction.  For years, we’ve condoned such behavior-especially if the player was a star player.  We didn’t mind our sports leagues giving our stars a suspension-just as long as it wasn’t forever and our star can get back to playing and entertaining us.  And when such players were fattening the NFL-and owners’-bottom line, no one gave a damn.

This stems from the age-old culture of violence that pervades this nation.  We have devolved from “Make Love, Not War” to “Make War, Not Love.”  If you watch an NFL game, you see it open with the singing of the National Anthem in tribute to our military serving fighting overseas.  Plus, we tack on the Fundaglical (Fundamentalist Evangelical) element to the game (players “thanking God” for a touchdown and the endless “John 3:16″ placards).  This same idiocy has metastasized into our overall culture to the point that we don’t give a damn about what Rice did anymore.

Until we as a culture change and bring a more peaceful and holy attitude back to the table, this violent shit like what Ray Rice did will not change.  Until we change and embrace, “Make Love, Not War” we will still embrace violence in all its forms.  Until we change and stop deifying these athletes-even tacking Fundagelical X-tianity to them, we’ll still have more of this.  Until we change. stop “supporting our troops” as killers, and instead support them as people who need to have a quality of life upon returning home; we’ll still support whatever violence done overseas.

Tomorrow will be the 11th Anniversary of the “9/11″ terrorist attacks here in America.  We’ll have our “never forget” signs, our memorials, our tributes, etc.  However, we need to understand that it’s our culture of violence here in America-and abroad-that ultimately produced the backlash that brought about September 11, 2001.  And despite that dark time in our history, we Americans have not changed.  And like Fido in tonight’s Scripture text, we keep going back to the vomit, the folly, of violence; with no change in sight.

Until WE change, nothing will change.  We’ll have more Ray Rice’s who we’ll forgive-and forget-as we let them entertain us on the field.

Peace.

 

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