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Is Following Christ Compatible With Christianity?


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In the video series "Saving Jesus", liberal theologian Bernard Brandon Scott states the following (or some facsimille of it)

 

When people ask me if I'm a Christian, I say "I'm a follower of Christ, and I'm not sure if that's compatible with Christianity."

 

If I was in the bumper sticker business...

 

I don't usually bring up topics like this, but it looks like something worth discussing (or debating). Do you agree with Scott's suggestion here? If so, then what about Christianity do you believe is incompatible with following Christ. If not, then why is Scott full of bologna?

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Well, that is an oversimplification.

There is plenty bad stuff in the Church, all sorts of extraneous baggage such as saints, and rituals and traditions which have nothing to do with loving God and loving Others.

And some of this extra stuff can actually hinder someone from following Jesus because they get so wrapped up in all the minor stuff and forget the important things.

Look at how the fuss over gay people has left the Church with a bad reputation and has driven away, perhaps permanently, many many gay people who will have nothing to do with Christ. I recall a Tshirt I once saw that said Jesus, Save Me!---from your followers.

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This makes me think of how some now like the word "Christianist".

 

So many words have multiple meanings. Is Christianity the reality of those who say they are Christians or is it the ideal? Whose ideal is it? I would equate Christianity with following Christ rather than with some essential beliefs, since I don't think there are essential beliefs, just some things that are essential to authentically following Christ, which I'd hate to try to list. Is following Christ a little enough or does one have to surrender completely? I've favored the latter, and I'm sure there are Bible verses that favor that, but what does that prove?

 

I've heard others say "follower of Christ" is their favorite label for themselves. I'm sure that can be as hypocritical as anything else. "Liberal Christian" is enough for me, just to warn anyone who needs it that I'm not a Bible-believing Christian. I'd warn people of other things, but it gets too cumbersome. God knows my complete relationship with Him. I can't imagine others understanding who I am to God unless they live my life just as I have. I don't see that happening.

 

So "follower of Christ"? OK, I do that. What does it mean to you? Mere words are so ambiguous.

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I think this may be getting at the difference in the religion of Jesus (being a follower of Christ) vs the religion about Jesus (perhaps a follower of Paul and the church). To follow either you run into the strong idea of inclusiveness (neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female) while many current versions of christianity are exclusive.

 

Have you heard the other Jesus prayer? Dear Father, protect me from my followers! :P

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"I am a follower of Christ" is a fine to describe oneself but I usually say "I am a progressive non-traditonal Christian" (if I think the person I am speaking to can comprehend that).That usually leads to a question or two and some conversation exhange.

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Of course, there is always just saying "I'm a Christian" and then living out as Christly a life as one can live. The witness might change people's notions about what a Christian might be.

 

I'm not trying to pick on you, Jim, but I'm going to use your label for a second.

 

"I am a progressive non-traditonal Christian"

 

I don't know what's in your heart, but I know what's in my heart when I say something like this: Fear. Fear of being perceived as something that I am not. This is not a statement of faith. It is, in fact, the opposite.

 

We either need to abandon Christianity or claim it. If we claim it, we have an opportunity to witness an authentic Christianity (loving, compassionate, peaceful, giving, inclusive). It is more powerful to be FOR something than to be AGAINST something.

 

What are we for? If our faith is simply based on what we're against, then aren't we letting other people define our faith?

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Well, that is an oversimplification.

There is plenty bad stuff in the Church, all sorts of extraneous baggage such as saints, and rituals and traditions which have nothing to do with loving God and loving Others.

And some of this extra stuff can actually hinder someone from following Jesus because they get so wrapped up in all the minor stuff and forget the important things.

Look at how the fuss over gay people has left the Church with a bad reputation and has driven away, perhaps permanently, many many gay people who will have nothing to do with Christ.

 

 

I do not see how those two connect. The latter part is certainly true to my experience but that has nothing to do with the richness of the treasures of the Church.

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"I am a follower of Christ" is a fine to describe oneself but I usually say "I am a progressive non-traditonal Christian" (if I think the person I am speaking to can comprehend that).That usually leads to a question or two and some conversation exhange.

 

 

Think of it all this way. Jesus was a non-traditional and progressive Jew. What does that make us ? Comparison is difficult across the generations, but I believe that what's going on these days is as significant as what happened 2,000 years ago.

 

flow.... ;)

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Fatherman, I don't think you are picking on me at all and your point is well taken. However one saying "I am a Christian" has a whole different meaning than I wish to convey right now. To most,stating "I am a Christian" means I am a fundamentlist, intolerant, judgemental, often hateful, and not open to anything that doesn't fit my world view. Just saying "I am a Christian" can end a conversation real quick and get people moving away from me at a time that I am trying to start a progressive fellowship locally.

 

I understand your logic though Fatherman. We are Christians and there should be no need to qualify that. I am at a time and a place though I want to attract and interest people in what I have to say about spirituality, not repel them.

 

Thanks too Flow, I never thought of Jesus in that way, I always thought of him as a radical reformer.

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I think Jesus was the most traditional of Jews, who totally incarnated all of the law and the prophets, who was a reformer in the sense that he called the people of his day back to the Common Covenant in its essence

 

Jesus did not break new ground as much as say, look to what is already here -

 

we should not separate ourselves from the Common Covenant - while we live in Paul's freedom from the law, we should also live live as people grounded in the common covenant

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In the video series "Saving Jesus", liberal theologian Bernard Brandon Scott states the following (or some facsimille of it)

 

QUOTE

When people ask me if I'm a Christian, I say "I'm a follower of Christ, and I'm not sure if that's compatible with Christianity."

 

If I was in the bumper sticker business...

 

I don't usually bring up topics like this, but it looks like something worth discussing (or debating). Do you agree with Scott's suggestion here? If so, then what about Christianity do you believe is incompatible with following Christ. If not, then why is Scott full of bologna?

 

Fatherman - you have chosen a very interesting quote.

 

'Christ' is actually a transliteration of a Greek word which means 'the anointed'. Paul referred to Jesus as 'Jesus the anointed' and 'the anointed Jesus'. We could ask the question, "Is the statement referring to following the wisdom of Jesus the anointed or is it referring to following Jesus the idolized Son of God?"

 

BobD

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Sorry Jack Twist, I have to disagree.Jesus constantly called those who would listen to adhere to the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. He constantly chided the Pharisees and Saducess as hypocrites.

 

When Jesus defended the adultress agaisnt those who would stone her, he was being quite radical. The law says an adultress should be stoned to death. Those doing the stoning were fundamentalists and literalists.

 

Whether it was healing on the Sabbath, or his kindness towards "the others", such as the Samaritans and the Roman soldier. Jesus flew in the face of orthodoxy and that is in part what got him into trouble with the authorities Jesus was a radical reformer.

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Sorry Jack Twist, I have to disagree.Jesus constantly called those who would listen to adhere to the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. He constantly chided the Pharisees and Saducess as hypocrites.

 

 

How does that make Jeus different (other than that he is the Annointed One) from the prophets, from the whole of the Common Covenant (Old Testament)?

 

I don't se that that does.

 

Jesus came not to be contra the Common Covenant but to fulfill it. That he called for a return to roots is part of the work of all reformers, nothing special or unique about that.

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Hi Jack: From Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary:

 

Reform: 1. to make better by removing abuses, altering, etc. 2. to improve morally; persuade or educate to a better life 3. to put an end to (an abuse, malpractice, etc.4. to give up sin or error, become better.

 

Come on Jack, sound like anybody we know?

Jesus and the prophets were reformers, calling a people that had strayed to a better way.

 

This is not be confused with Jesus' Jewish roots. This I wholeheartedly acknowledge. Jesus was a Jew. He celebrated Sabbath on the 7th day,preached in Temple, and in Matthew says "The Law stands forever" (paraphrasing here, not a direct quote)

 

I spent almost a year on a Kibbutz in Israel in 1980, have a great great that was Jewsih, and studied some with Messianic Jews. (Not to be confused with "Jews for Jesus", who are born again fundamentalists who happen to be Jewish)Messianic Jews are an interesting bunch and go very much into Jesus' Jewish roots and his and their relationship to the law. Shalom

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the question is not wherther Jeus was a reformer - akthough appeals to dictionaries seldom move me, and this one doesn't either - I think that was covered in my posts alreay so that is not the issue

 

My point is the utter danger in setting Jesus apart from, as some antthesis to, the Common Covenant. Under Chrst Paul taught we are freed from keeping the laws, but we live as yet within the same faith, as Paul also said, branch grafted onto the tree, as did Jesus. One God. One Faith. Just that we know God through Christ, rather than through the Common Covenant.

 

 

Jesus combatted legalism - but I do not believe that Jesus stood against orthodoxy. Much of what Jesus did in expanding our understandngs of the love of God to those outside the community was so thoroughly steeped in the Common Covenant that I thank God that in Jesus there was One who brought us back to the faith of the prophets and the entire Common Covenant. Jesus told the legalists and exclusionist of his time the same thing that Jeus says today - our faith directs us towards the alien, the wandering Aramean, those outside the community be it Ruth or Rahah or Melchizidek or Naaman or the widow of Sidon or the alien or the stranger. This was not new to Jesus. It was a reforming call to return to - othodoxy if one will - that ours is a faith that is not about "God and me" but justice, mercy, and walking humbly with our God, rooted in love, for all.

 

 

I am glad you lived in Israel. I studied at Spertus College of Judaica and under several rabbis. My experiences with messianic Jews is limited because I have been turned off by all the prooftexting. Gentiles need Christ to bring us to God, Judaism already has God, and I prefer my Jewish tsadeks to be Jewish. Blessed be the ways of God and all the experiences with which we are blessed.

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This situation of being asked my religion or if I'm a Christian happens so rarely to me even though I live in the Bible Belt. In high school and college, I suppose I was approached a few times with "Are you a Christian" or "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior". More often than not, though, it comes up in the form of a mutual disclosure. Here are the most common scenarios where my faith becomes a topic:

 

1.) A friend or coworker is or knows someone who is in a crisis. Usually, if someone is willing to share this kind of personal information, they are receptive to support. I privately contact the person and ask them if I can include them in my prayers. No one ever asks if I'm a Christian in this scenario. It's enough to them to know that I'm praying. Perhaps they assume I'm a Christian. Perhaps they don't care.

 

2.) A friend or coworker has participated in some form of prayer with me. I've prayed for them or a friend. Or they've prayed for me. They know I'm open to spiritual discussion. They are having a faith crisis or just have questions. I listen. If appropriate, I share my perspective which usually includes a profession of Christian faith. It never bothers anyone if I'm more progressive than they are because I've taken the time to listen to them.

 

3.) A friend or coworker is an atheist, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Wiccan, or some other non-Christian. I am curious about their faith/beliefs/way of life. They are cautious because they're used to Christian traps. I affirm the value of their beliefs. They ask about me. I say I'm a Christian. They're surprised. "You're not like must Christians!" or they are defensive. They bring up painful confrontations or horrible statements made in the name of Christ that they've read about or witnessed. I join with them in expressing my dissent toward what ever atrocity they cite. The door is open for future discussions. They see me as a safe person to ask their questions or express their frustrations about Christianity.

 

4.) Least likely scenario. A trollish friend or coworker lives to debate faith issues. They are extreme in their belief or in their non-belief. I listen to them. I answer their questions honestly as long as they are respectful (I tend to get really quiet when a troll becomes disrespectful...a troll hates quiet and will eventually leave or remove their troll mask when confronted with quiet) . I listen carefully for the common ground and begin gently directing the conversation toward it. The anger and passion becomes diffused and gets replaced with either mutual respect or boredom.

 

In none of these scenarios do I feel that I have to come up with a new label. In fact, I rarely need a label at all. Don't labels become irrelevant in the presence of love? If love is what I'm offering, no one who stands in need of it will question my faith or my religion.

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Actually, the quote that Fatherman started this thread with, "I'm a follower of Christ, but I am not sure if that is compatible with being a Christian"is pretty clever and says the same thing as my " I am a progressive non-tradtional Chrisitan" in a less intellectual sounding way.

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Actually, the quote that Fatherman started this thread with, "I'm a follower of Christ, but I am not sure if that is compatible with being a Christian"is pretty clever and says the same thing as my " I am a progressive non-tradtional Chrisitan" in a less intellectual sounding way.
I have to agree, JimR. It's a very clever and poignant way of saying "I am a progressive non-tradtional Christian". Then again it could be a way of saying "I'm an off-the-charts radical fundamentalist Christian" who believes mainstream Christianity got it all wrong. :lol:

 

I don't have a problem with labels that people prefer for themselves. And I love Scott's phrase. It says a mouthful. Scott is definitely someone worth reading or listening too.

 

i say i am Christian when asked, but Christians say i am not Christian.

 

Soma, this makes me think of that old camp song "They will know we are Christians by our love". I heard Bishop Spong say something like "They will know we are Christians by our love not by the rightness of our religion".

 

So what is Christian love? Is it the same as Hindu love? Buddhist love? Humanist love? (new thread on this topic)

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I am a Christian and take total identification with that. The term Christianity is fine by me.

 

 

I am also a citizen of the US and thus an American by common usage. I certainly do not embrace everything that the US has done or is doing or everything that is connected to being an American but I am what I am.

 

That goes with any identification I have.

 

I am a father, a grandfather, a pastor, a male, a Chicago White Sox fan. Doesn't mean I approve of everything anyone who wears those names has done, or that I approved of throwing the 1919 World Series.

 

I see myself as part of the other which to me is a whole lot more comfortable than trying to define myself against others, i.e. " I am a Christian but not like them."

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I sing that camp song as a chant

 

We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord

again but higher

and they'll know we're God's children by our love by our love

and they'll know we're God's children by our love

 

Chant starts again

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  • 1 month later...
I'm not trying to pick on you, Jim, but I'm going to use your label for a second.

 

 

 

I don't know what's in your heart, but I know what's in my heart when I say something like this: Fear. Fear of being perceived as something that I am not. This is not a statement of faith. It is, in fact, the opposite.

 

We either need to abandon Christianity or claim it. If we claim it, we have an opportunity to witness an authentic Christianity (loving, compassionate, peaceful, giving, inclusive). It is more powerful to be FOR something than to be AGAINST something.

 

What are we for? If our faith is simply based on what we're against, then aren't we letting other people define our faith?

 

You make a very good point. I can definitely see Jim's point of view on this and I am guilty of the same idea. Despite my recent attraction to Christianity I've been afraid to label myself as such, less because of the supposed political implications than the spiritual ones. I do not want people thinking I believe something I don't, because I don't accept a lot of "traditional" Christianity.

 

Yet at the same time, you're right; we have a choice between abandoning Christianity or claiming it. Kind of similar to the idea presented by the title of Spong's (I think?) book, Christianity Must Change or Die, or something along those lines.

 

How do we claim Christianity, though? How does one go about doing this? Especially when the fundamentalist voices are so much louder...

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When we speak we want to adequately communicate the desired message. In my rural community stating that I am a Christian means I am a right wing, pro-life Republican, who hates everybody that doesn't share my political point of view, that I judge and condemn everyone that doesn't share the specific tenets of my faith,and that I don't want science taught in the school, etc. That is not who I am and that is not the message I want to communicate. Language at that point has failed.

 

(Conversly when I am on this site or other progressive Christian sites, like "Crossleft", where I post frequently, I can say "I am a Chrisitan" and the message I wish to communicate is understood. )

 

If and when the subject comes up I want to communicate that I have a different view of spirituality and I am a Christian who does not share those above mentioned attributes.The statements "I am a follower of Christ" or "I am a progressive non-traditional Christian" more closely relays the message I want to convey for the population as a whole.

 

If Jack or anyone else wants to stick soley to "I am a Christian" and let me people figure it out from there thats fine. If they feel they are reclaiming Christianity in some way, have at it.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, saying "I am a Christian" ends a conversation at a time when I don't want to end the conversation. I want to spark the conversation, like Jesus Christ himself I want to call people to a path of personal transformation and change.If the conversation is over as soon as I say "I am a Christian" thats not what I want to do.

 

I hope the day comes when saying "I am a Christian" means I love God, I love my neighbor, I forgive seven times seventy, I walk the path of peace, I leaving the judging to God, etc. At his point it time it doesn't mean that in my community or in our society at large. Reality is that Christians with those attributes often don't speak up . We need to speak up and I agree with Jack and the idea that we need to reclaim Christianity. If there is no conversation, then there is no change, if there is no change, then we don't reclaim Chrisitianity.

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I am going to tell a story to illustrate a point as someone I admire did about 2.000 years ago.

 

About 10 or so years ago I supervised a Social Work program. At that time I was not only the supervisor but the only man working out of that office. The other Social Workers and Nurses were female. Two young female Social Workers came in from home visits on a hot summer day and I said "Wow, you two look really hot"! They both giggled nervously and seemed embarrased. I thought this was a strange reaction to so benign a comment.

 

Before the end of the day the word was out that I was a no good sexist pig and was making sexually inappropriate comments to women. I wanted to get to the bottom of it really quick before trouble started.As a career civil servant for many different agencies I had pretty much mastered the art of not saying or doing anything that might be construed as sexist or racist. I had gotten to the point I didn't even compliment anyone on a nice dress or new hair style.

 

As you might have figured out, it was about the "hot" comment. "Hot" meaning sexy, was just begining to emerge about then as slang for sexy. (At least in my rural area, probably before that in Cal and other cool places.) I didn't have a clue that "hot" meant sexy.

 

When I made that comment I literally meant that they looked "hot" as a result of the warm summer day. I was 100% percent correct in my usage of the language and had committed no wrong. However, because of the young female Social Workers perception of the language I had not commmunicated the message I wished. I was even looking at possible trouble. After some explanantion and a CONVERSATION, they realized that I was really not a very with it guy,or tuned in to the latest slang venacular. So for the future, they now knew what I meant when I said "Wow, you look hot".

 

How does this relate to the conversation here? Until the public is educated that "Christian" means comapssionate, tolerant, non-judgemental, loving, peacerul, etc and not the opposite, we are going to have to have a CONVERSATION to make ourselves understood.

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