Do Religious Leaders and Con Artists Work The Same?

I saw this video the other day and it has had me spinning in thought ever since. It asks a very relevant question that may not have been asked 200…400…or even 2000 years ago in religious circles. The reason it interested me so much is precisely that the churches I came out of were notorious for manipulating people. They could get so many people to believe what they said without any hesitation. Even when they said the most hurtful things….people would just nod their heads in agreement because they saw these religious leaders as “anointed”. As if they are speaking for God. What this video suggests is that the work of organized religion and its religious leaders gain these followings and admiration through the same techniques that a con artist takes advantage of in unsuspecting people.

Psychologist and writer Maria Konnikova looks at the mechanisms of human nature that have allowed con artists, religious authorities, and cult leaders to prevail for thousands of years. Konnikova is the author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It… Every Time

Agree or disagree with the person in the video…but at least think about the possibilities of what’s going on….even in your own church. Love casts out all fear and does not instill it in you. Love does not control or manipulate. Love does not demand anything from you or shame you to give money to be blessed. But a con artist does…and yet we fall for it all the time. Let me know what you think. I’m eager to know…

How Much Control Does God Actually Have?

I have been forced to deal with an interesting question…”How much control does God actually have?” It’s a great question to ask ourselves. Why? Because maybe we give to much credit or put to much responsibility on God’s shoulders for the things in our lives. We are all guilty of wanting God to fix everything for us or asking God why everything is not going right. God-is-in-Control-cover-photoOr we thank God when everything is good and we blame God when things are not going our way at all. I’ve heard people say, “God I have tithed my whole life. Why did I lose my job or lose my house”? Maybe we have been asking the wrong questions. Maybe we have had the wrong mindset all along. Maybe God doesn’t have the control we think he has. Maybe we made up the idea that God is in control of everything.

What spurred on this conversation for me was reading an article called  God Punished David by Killing a Baby and Forcing his Wives into Adulterythat questioned why God would use the death of David’s son and the unfaithfulness of his wives to punish David for the Bathsheba debacle. Read it. You don’t have to agree with it (I don’t agree with his conclusion that God is evil) but at least think about the real questions that come out of it. Does God use evil to punish people? If God is Love, then why would he call for the death of anyone?  Does God actually have that much control? Be free to ask questions. If you are in a religious setting where you can’t ask questions freely…then you may be in a cult that is controlling your life. Jesus is different.

Love Transcends Space, Time, and Law

The movie Interstellar is well thought out and is spectacular to watch. One conversation just floored me when I saw this movie…it made me think about Love from a new point of view for the first time. Start asking your own questions about Love and what it really means.

I loved the movie Interstellar. I thought the movie was well thought out and the filmography was spectacular to watch. I was completely engulfed in the movie from the start and I was thrown out the end of the movie thinking how small we are in such a vast universe.images One conversation just floored me when I saw this movie…it made me think about Love from a new point of view for the first time. In this scene, the conversation is between Cooper and Dr. Brand on the Endurance space craft as they are deciding which move to make next. What Dr Brand says is what was so eye opening to me. Dr. Brand is in love with a college that is on a potential planet for them to visit to see if it will sustain life. Cooper is letting all those involved in the decision to know that Dr. Brand may be driven by love, instead of science alone, for the college on one of the potential planets. The conversation goes like this…

Cooper: She’s in love with Wolf Edmunds.
Romilly: Is that true?
Brand: Yes. And that makes me want to follow my heart. But maybe we’ve spent too long trying to figure all this out with theory.
Cooper: You’re a scientist, Brand.
Brand: So listen to me, when I say that love isn’t something we invented, it’s observable, powerful. It has to mean something.
Cooper: Love has meaning, yes, social utility, social bonding, child rearing…
Brand: We love people who have died, where’s the social utility in that?
Cooper: None.
Brand: But maybe it means something more, something we can’t yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade. Who, I know, is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can’t understand it yet.

This quick conversation has hit the nail on the head when it comes to why we, as humans, even see, or desire, the stories of Jesus to be true. Even though it is hard to understand…we want the stories to be true because we truly desire for something out there, greater than ourselves, to know we exist…to know we have feelings….to know that we matter and have value…..we want to know that we can be saved. We want to know where we came from and we want to be loved. I have faith there is something out there….and it is has to be Love…and it transcends all space and time, yet we can perceive it and experience it. In addition, and more importantly, Love transcends Law….the very Law we use to condemn others to the judgement of God. Did Jesus show this Love in his life? Is Love a powerful force….the most powerful force in the universe? Is God that eternally powerful force that transcends space, time, Law, and everything else that could possibly be knowable? Let’s explore this a little more…

Continue reading “Love Transcends Space, Time, and Law”

“Grasping” for Success cannot be Confused with Love

In my last article, I gave my thoughts on how Jesus did not “grasp” for relevance but knew that Love is the only true revelation of the Father. The idea is presented by Paul in Philippiansdownload (MG book) 2: 1-11, but specifically verse 5 saying,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Most people, in my past experience in churches, would say that Jesus shed his divine nature to become human. I do not believe that this is the best interpretation of what Paul is saying here. In an amazing book called Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology, The author, Michael J. Gorman, makes an excellent point that Paul is saying that Jesus, who empties himself of all conceit and selfish ambition, is showing that this is who God is….The very divine nature of God is “self-emptying”, or Kenotic. This makes so much more sense to me, when reading the Bible, than a lot of traditional interpretations of Protestant Theology. God gives of himself…he shows us the exact definition of Love. The kicker is, a lot of our definitions of love are the exact opposite of the kenosis of Jesus in his life and on the cross. Maybe our thoughts on love and who God is are rooted more in our ideas of who we want God to be? Just think about it….

Continue reading ““Grasping” for Success cannot be Confused with Love”

Jesus was the opposite of our churches desire to “grasp” for relevance…He was Love.

Philippians 2:1-11 has Paul explaining what the Gospel (good news) actually looks like being lived out in the Kingdom of God through positively mimicking Jesus as he displays the true nature of the Father. Read this article to start asking your own questions about the Kenotic Love of Jesus.

This is a paper I finished up reading and it has truly challenged me. Its called, “GRASPING GOD: Philippians 2: 1-11 in the Light of Mimetic Theory by Michael E. Hardin and Steven E. Berry. A paper presented to the Colloquium on Violence and Religion July 2005 in Koblenz, Germany”.  This paper really put a piece of the puzzle in place for me in my mind on the problems with churches being driven by success and results, like we have been discussing over the last several years. images3Those who put the effort into understanding Paul, here in the linked paper, are responsible for the thoughts and quotes that come out in here.

The point the article is conveying is that Philippians 2:1-11 has Paul explaining what the Gospel (good news) actually looks like being lived out in the Kingdom of God through positively mimicking Jesus as he displays the true nature of the Father. Paul explains this in verses 1-4 saying,

“If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

What would make Paul happy is to see those who follow Jesus to conduct themselves and live in a manner that has no selfish-ambition, no conceit, be of the same mind (mind of who?), be of the same love (love of who?), and with humility, regard another as higher than yourself. I won’t make this too long, but the paper is making the point that positive mimesis, in Christ, is a good thing. We all copy something and it is Jesus who has given us the ability to mimic him who is living out the love of the Father. Continue reading “Jesus was the opposite of our churches desire to “grasp” for relevance…He was Love.”

Talking to our Kids about the Gospel – Part 1

I want to explain the Good News of Jesus Christ to my kids. However, this is a tough one. Why? Because my wife and I are on a journey ourselves that is asking a lot of big questions. Read this article to start asking your own questions on kids, church, and the good news of Jesus.

I want to explain the Good News of Jesus Christ to my kids. However, this is a tough one. Why? Because my wife and I are on a journey ourselves that is asking a lot of  questions. Big questions that really fly in the face of what we were taught growing up.no brain At times, we look at each other and ask one another, “what do we even say”? “How do we even say it?” We want to raise our kids well and teach them to be the best they can be, just like every other parent in the world, I hope. We want to talk to them about the God that we know. We want to share how the person of Jesus has molded us and shaped us. However, my wife and I both grew up in very fundamentalist christian environments. These were environments that were very dogmatic with no room to deviate from the core beliefs that were rigorously taught every time the doors were open without being “disciplined” by the members. We have come to the conclusion that we want to have conversations with our kids about Jesus without this dogmatic interpretation by churches that we grew up with. We just want them to know about Jesus and what he did. We want them to Love. We want to leave the dogma in the dust. We want them to learn how to think…to think with compassion for humanity. We don’t want them to look at a verse in the bible to determine what to do or how to love, but to know that love comes from viewing others as more important. We want them to be Real. We want them to be Gentle and Merciful with no violent view of God. We want them to be like Jesus….and leave the religion behind. Man are we in trouble…

The Copycat Church

This is the idea that no church is original, but all churches are mimicking other successful churches that are, in turn, mimicking other churches that have been successful.here See the pattern? “What? How can this be? My church is amazing!” Famous words from just about everyone that goes and commits to a church. However, the reality is, we do copy other successful churches. Your church is no different than 1000 others out there. Look around. The music is the same, the sermons are the same, the dress is the same. We copy each other so much that Christianity is a very recognizable sub-culture in our day and age. We even have our own language….that many like to joke about called “christianese”. Interestingly enough, none of these qualities that we see on Sunday mornings are used to describe who a follower of Christ is. Love is the only quality. Loving those around you, including your enemies, are the qualities of the Kingdom of God.

Continue reading “The Copycat Church”