Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tenets of Unfundamentalist Christians

I came across a "What We Believe" post by Unfundamentalist Christians  on Facebook. There is a teen version which follows the original version.  Both were written by John Shore.  I post them here because they sum up, more eloquently than I, my beliefs.

  1. Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  2. Christ and Christianity are meant to be understood, appreciated, and experienced as galvanizing inspirations for living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. Period.
  3. The Bible is a collection of a great many separate documents written by different people in different languages over thousands of years. Properly understanding both the letter and spirit of the Bible necessarily entails taking into account the historical and cultural contexts that so greatly inform so much of its text. The size, density, history and complexity of the Bible render unfeasible the idea that not one of its words reflects more man’s will than God’s. The spirit of God is inerrant; people—even those impassioned by the conviction that God is speaking directly to or through them—are not.
  4. Anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either. Belief that all people are created equal and are deserving of equal protection under the law is foundational to all modern democratic nations. To incorporate the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the determinedly inclusive system of democracy would be to undermine the very spirit of democracy by pushing it toward a theocracy.
  5. It’s not possible to read Paul’s New Testament writings and remain unmoved by his open heart, intellectual prowess, and staggering bravery. And yet Paul (who, after all, spent years zealously persecuting and having executed untold numbers of Christians) must remain to us a mortal man. More than reasonable, it is incumbent upon those who claim to seek the deepest knowledge of Christ to subject the words of Paul to the same kinds of objective analysis we would the words of any man daring to describe the qualities, purposes, and desires of God.
  6. With regards to the written identity of God, the pronoun “he” is a necessity of the English language, not an actual anatomical designation. God is neither male nor female; God contains all of both.
  7. The Biblical scholarship supporting the idea that Paul never wrote a word proscribing natural homosexuality is at least as credible and persuasive as the scholarship (if not typical Bible translations) claiming that he did. Any person who uses the words of Paul in the New Testament to “prove” that homosexuality is a sin against God has either never themselves researched the matter, or has simply chosen to believe one set of proofs over another. Though laziness is easily enough understood, we remain mystified as to why anyone who purports to follow Jesus would choose to condemn an entire population over choosing to obey Jesus’ self-proclaimed Greatest Commandment to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.
  8. It is much more reasonable—and certainly more compassionate—to hold that throughout history God chose to introduce himself in different ways into different cultural streams than it is to believe that there is only one correct way to understand and worship God, and that the punishment for anyone who chooses any but that way is to spend all of eternity having the living flesh seared off of his or her bones.
  9. “No one comes to the Father except through me” does not mean that in the afterlife only Christians can get into heaven. It means that Jesus/God decides who does and doesn’t make it in.
  10. The question of whether or not hell is real is properly subsumed by the truth that a moment spent worrying if you’ll be with God in the afterlife is an opportunity missed to be with God in this life.
  11. God’s will and intention is to forgive and teach us, not to judge and punish us.
  12. The only person who should be actively endeavoring to convert non-Christians into Christians is God. Jesus does not need our help drawing people towards him. He does need, or could certainly use, our help in making sure that people know that they are, just as they are, loved.
  13. Getting a divorce is painful, and if at all possible should certainly be avoided. But ultimately the act in and of itself is not immoral.
  14. God does not want any woman “submitting” to anyone.
  15. There were no dinosaurs on Noah’s ark; Jesus didn’t have a pet stegosaurus. An all-powerful God and the theory of evolution are not incompatible.
  16. The single most telling indicator of a person’s moral character has nothing to do with how they define or worship God, and everything to do with how they treat others.
© John Shore, 2010
And here (by request), is a teen version of this document:
Here’s what we Unfundamentalist Christians think:
  1. Jesus Christ was, and is, absolutely real. He performed miracles (duh: he was God); he sacrificed himself on the cross so that everyone could be forever reconciled with God; he rose from the dead; he left behind, for everyone, the Holy Spirit.
  2. Christianity is supposed to be all about living a life of love, compassion, fairness, peace, and humility. That’s it.
  3. The Bible isn’t just one thing. It’s a bunch of writings done by a ton of different people over about a zillion years. It’s poems, songs, history, allegories … the whole thing is just crazy dense. To really get whatever you’re reading in the Bible, you have to know something about whatever time and culture that part of it was written in. Also, the people who wrote the stuff that eventually made it into the Bible were just people. Through the Holy Spirit, God was definitely working through them as they wrote. But it only stands to reason that not every single word that made it into the Bible is exactly what God would have texted, or whatever. People who make the actual words of whatever translation of the Bible they’re looking at more important than the message of the Bible are totally missing the point.
  4. Church and state should be separate. Fair is fair.
  5. Paul rocks, no doubt. He’s the best. But it’s Christianity, not Paulianity.
  6. God’s not male or female. He’s both. He’s all. People who have to have God be a “he” need to let it go.
  7. The only way to think being gay is a sin is to never actually know any gay people.
  8. No one religion contains all of God.
  9. Where in “No one comes to the Father except through me,” does it say you have to be a Christian in order to get into heaven?
  10. If you’re worried too much about the afterlife, you’re not worried enough about this life. Living a life of love means not having to worry about hell.
  11. God wants to forgive and teach us, not judge and punish us.
  12. God can handle converting people. Our job is to love people.
  13. Divorce completely sucks. But the idea that God wants anyone to continue suffering in a hopeless, damaging marriage is ridiculous.
  14. God doesn’t want women “submitting” to anyone.
  15. Evolution being true doesn’t mean there’s no God. The two aren’t incompatible.
  16. What really matters most about a person isn’t how they define God. It’s how well they treat others.
© John Shore, 2010

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