Thursday, August 7, 2008


My friend, Bishop Leland Somers, sent out this video clip that I couldn't watch until the end, because I was profoundly embarrassed. This is that clip that shows so many warped features of what passes for "Christianity" that I don't have the words to express them:

When I wrote him back and said that I was embarrassed to watch the whole clip, and that it was patently offensive to me, he wrote me the following reply that I reproduce with his permission:

"That is one way to see it. I see it as child exploitation. This sort of
thing is part and parcel of Christian history. In the middle ages people put
their unwanted daughters in nunneries and paid handsomely in order to get
rid of them. Others with an excess of sons paid monasteries to take them off
their hands and make them monks. This is one of the reasons that medieval
monasticism became so corrupt. It was the dumping ground for unwanted
children; children who had no calling to religious life but had to have
something to do when there wasn't enough family resources to go around.

"It goes back to the time, especially after Constantine, when whole tribes
and territories were baptized wholesale with absolutely no knowledge of what
baptism is supposed to represent - commitment to the Way of Jesus. The same
thing is true of infant baptism, it became a travesty because it is supposed
to represent commitment - and since when can a 6 month old child make a
commitment to anything.

"Christianity ceased to be about Faith in the God revealed in the life and
teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and a series of magical
rites and rituals. It became about religion - rules, regulations, cults and
rites and not about trust in God.

"I just finished reading 'Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World'
by Jacques Ellul and in reference to this he writes:

"'This is why, when a religion undergoes rapid expansion and acquires great
bodies of adherents, since the masses cannot by definition enter the world
of faith, they turn to belief, which is rapidly transformed into passwords,
rites, and orthodoxy.'

"He goes on to write:

'Faith is a terribly caustic substance, a burning acid. It puts to the test
every element of my life and society; it spares nothing. It leads me
ineluctably to question all my certitudes, all my moralities, beliefs, and
policies. It forbids me to attach ultimate significance to any expression of
human activity.'

"And further:

'And so the only thing that faith can bring me to recognize is my impotence,
my incapacity, my inadequacy, my incompleteness, and consequently my
incredulity (naturally faith is the most unerring and lethal weapon against
all beliefs). But that's precisely what makes it faith: that's how it exists
and how it shapes me.'... Belief is reassuring. People who live in the world
of belief feel safe; God is their protector. On the contrary, faith is
forever placing us on the razor's edge.'

"And more:

'Hence this faith, which continually incorporates doubt as part of itself,
which grows out of the rich humus of doubt, is necessarily open and
forgiving. Whom should It condemn? The moment the just men who were
preparing to stone the adulterous woman drop their stones and walk pensively
away, THEN they enter the realm of faith, THEN they fulfill the living law.'

"This is a really good book. One of the best that I've read on the difference
between faith and belief, between faith and religion - which as Ellul says
is always the product of human efforts and not the fruit of Faith. One of
the statements he made that made me really think was that religion never
produces faith but faith often degenerates into religion.

"Genuine faith, I think, is the sort of thing that allows you to look out
from the ruins of life as Job did from the ashes of his dreams, the misery
of his suffering and in the face of his accusers say: ' Naked came I out of
my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the
LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.'

"Religion is easy - we can make it anything we like. Faith is hard because we
must look to the face of God and know that God tells us:

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith
the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than
your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' Isaiah 55: 8 & 9

"Faith stands before the fire and when it tries to make statements (doctrines
and dogmas) is confronted with the only real answer that God ever gives:
'And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say
unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.' Exodus Chapter 3
verse 14.

"Any definition beyond this is human activity and human beings trying to
comprehend the incomprehensible and understand the irrational, and define
that which cannot be defined because it [God] cannot be held in the human

"But I ramble.

"Blessings and Peace."

Leland Somers NEVER rambles! Check out his blog, Musings of a Progressive Bishop when you get a chance, and see for yourself! He's one of the genuine articles!
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genevieve said...

One of the reasons people walk away from God is that they believe that He cares more about rules and regulations than he does about people. He is Not that at all. The church was very corrupt during the midle ages, hence the need for the Reformation.

Faith in God is alive and well. this is what people are searching. This is what made the first Christian church so attractive to those outside. Everyone was welcome regardless of race, sex, gender, or socioeconomic status.Is this what we need today?


Jerry Maneker said...

We sure do, Genevieve! That's what the MCC initiated, and most churches within the United Church of Christ, and many within the Disciples of Christ, as well as some other denominational and non-denominational churches have been practicing. How anyone can see Jesus' injunctions against judging others, commanding love for others, and Who specialized in inclusion, even of the pariahs of the society of His time, and still contravene what Jesus taught and lived, and have the gall to call themselves "Christians" is still a mystery to me.