12 March 2007

As seen on a church sign on my way to work today...

"Do not love the world."

How disturbing is THAT? I know what they are getting at, being the good preacher's daughter that I am...I'm sure it's a reference to the passage in Romans that says to be of the world but not in the world. But do not LOVE the world?

What about "love your neighbor as yourself?" Or one of my favorites from friends that lived in the same little conservative town where I grew up: "hate the sin but not the sinner?" In my mind, "Do not love the world," is equivalent to "Hate those that are not just like me," and those of you that know me should know how well that idea would sit.

Our world is a miraculous, marvelous, terrifying, beautiful, horrible, interesting place and if we do not love it, embrace it, include all the people on the earth in it...then we do not deserve it. For the more fundamental Christians among us, how can you follow Christ's missive to "go make of all disciples" unless you love them first? If you don't love them, then who cares if they go to Heaven or Hell? For those in helping professions, how do you help someone if you don't first love them...not love as in Barry White, chocolates, hearts, and flowers but love as in care for as a fellow human being? In my world, you can't help if you can't love.

If "Do not love the world," means keep your eyes/focus/mind/heart on your concept of a reward after death, a Heaven or Nirvana or whatever your tradition recognizes, then I feel sad for you. The God that I believe in put us on the earth and made the earth for us to enjoy, not to shun and seclude from, keeping only to other like-minded believers. The God that I believe in is represented in every tree, every plant, every face of every person that comes into and out of my life. Why would I not love the world? God made the world.

So I say love the world. Love the people in the world. It's a lot harder to destroy or wage war against your fellow humans when you love them, wouldn't you say?

20 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Man - I think you've missed your calling. What a powerful post - you know I totally agree with you.

Especially the loving the people you help bit.

Nan said...

Dave made a good point to me though. What the sign was talking about was loving the world but not the ways of the world...but you know, I still think that you have to at least tolerate "the ways of the world," meaning individual cultures, even if you don't agree with them...because you expect other cultures to be tolerant of your own culture. How can you work for change in those ways that are harmful if you don't first understand why they are the way they are?

Geez I should have majored in philosophy or something...I'm making my own head hurt! :)

AmyMB said...

I read that command in a different way - to me, it means don't put your love and your faith in the things of this world, such as money and the material items that money buys.
As Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth"
(Matthew 6:24)
Also Colossians 3:1-2
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
To me, this doesn't mean constantly fantasizing about life after death. It means living this life as God would have me live it and loving things that are of God.

Elizabeth said...

gosh Amy.. when did you become SO biblical?

AmyMB said...

Well, if you're going to try to discuss things you read on a church sign, what's a better source? :-)

Nan said...

A bit more info might be in order here...the church in question is a Presbyterian PCA, and has nothing quoted on the sign scripture-wise than just that one sentence. I saw it again this morning. Perhaps my rant is more against the conservative side of organized religion, specifically Christianity because that's the one with which I am familiar. I think that we as Christians miss the mark when we fail to see all that is in the world, the ways, the people, the tragedies, the joys, the different cultures and religions as being equal and valued and worthy of respect, even when we don't agree with them. That's what I was aiming for in commenting on that sign.

That and the fact that I feel it inappropriate for a church to EVER tell me to "not love" something. Sorry. Church and God, to me, are about love, and the denomination in which I was raised is just as guilty as any of the others of taking that prime tenet, that directive to love each other, and twisting it to add "as long as we are all the same." Amy, you quoted scripture and I believe you are right in your interpretation when you say that it commands us to not love material things...but I hear so much more rhetoric these days that takes those very words and uses them to include people and cultures that don't believe as we do. Until we can love the world as a creation of the Divine, regardless of our name for that Higher Power, we are missing the point. "Do not love the world," without further clarification, misses the point and feeds the conservative xenophobic culture that is sadly growing under our noses. Plain and simple.

Elizabeth said...

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV, John 13:34-35; cf. John 15:17). Jesus also taught "Love your enemies." (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27).

Wouldn't it be nice if people read those words and truly adhered to them? If they truly loved all men and not just those who are like themselves. I sadly agree with Nan about the current culture and add the word ignorant after xenophobic.

I do love a good Nancy debate!

AmyMB said...

""Do not love the world," without further clarification, misses the point"

Well, that specific sentence is actually from the Bible - 1 John 2:15 - the whole quote is "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world."
I'm sure they just couldn't fit that whole thing on a church billboard, so they just put the first part of it, hoping that people would read the rest of the quote and understand it in context.
This verse is not talking about not loving people who are different from you, and Christianity does not espouse that, either. The problem that some people have with Christianity is that Christians know that Jesus is the the only way to God. That's the central tenet of the faith.
Does that mean that we hate everyone who isn't a Christian? No. As you mentioned earlier, it is possible to hate the sin and still love the sinner.
Tolerance does not mean that I have to think that your religion is just as valid and right as mine is. Just because you have to tolerate something doesn't necessarily mean you have to approve of it. And my not approving of certain religions does not mean that I hate people who practice those religions.
I don't approve when Drew throws a tantrum, but I tolerate it, and I still love him.

If you truly want to see intolerance, take a look at jihadist Islam. That, my friends, is the very picture of true xenophobia and intolerance.

If you disagree with a Christian, you may get a few Bible verses and a prayer or two thrown at you. If you disagree with jihadist Islam...well, we've all seen the videos of what happens to those people...

Elizabeth said...

So by your arguement, Amy, you're saying that you don't think Islam is a valid and right religion?

And I think it's naive to think that there aren't extremist Christians as there are Muslims.

AmyMB said...

1) The central tenet of Christianity - the "litmus test" if you will - is that we believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation.
A lot of religions believe in loving your neighbor as yourself, but Christianity is defined by our belief in Christ as the only way and the truth of God.
Therefore, anybody who does not follow the path of Christ is not on the course to salvation. If by "right and valid" when referring to religion, you mean, does it lead to God and salvation, then, because Muslims do not follow Christ, I don't believe that their religion is "right and valid."
Do I hate Muslims? No. I don't know many of them, but the ones I've met have all been very nice and intelligent and well-spoken. I tolerate their religion and I certainly don't hate their religion, but I don't believe it's right.
2) Sure, there are plenty of wacko extremist Christians. Find me some videos of Pat Buchanan chopping off the head of a non-believer, and then I'll concede that maybe our extremists are as "xenophobic" as Muslim extremists.

Nan said...

I don't think that's what she said exactly, Liz. She was careful to put the word jihadist in front of the word Islam to clarify that she meant the more fundamentalist and far far right wing branches of Islam...in fact, those that are not recognized as being Islamic by true followers of the faith.

You two have brought up some interesting points, though.

1."If you disagree with a Christian, you may get a few Bible verses and a prayer or two thrown at you. If you disagree with jihadist Islam...well, we've all seen the videos of what happens to those people..."

I just want to remind folks about things like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Holocaust...all things that had to do with disagreements with the Christian faith to some degree or another. Glass houses and stones.

2. "The problem that some people have with Christianity is that Christians know that Jesus is the the only way to God. That's the central tenet of the faith."

Bingo, you've just nailed on the head the problem I have with organized Christianity. I don't believe that, and further, I am quite clear that the Bible was inspired by God but written by man, so I read it through that filter. There's a lot of it that seems to be propaganda more than parable or scripture but that's just me. :)

3. "And I think it's naive to think that there aren't extremist Christians as there are Muslims."

True, but in fairness what is the connotation of "extremist" on each side? How often do we see fundamentalist believing Christians touted as pious or "role models," yet fundamentalist Muslims are terrorists and "evil-doers?"

Lordy, that's a blog post in and of itself...

Nan said...

"Therefore, anybody who does not follow the path of Christ is not on the course to salvation."

And my issue still, the issue that kept me from doing what everyone else in my family did and going into a church related career, the issue that keeps me from feeling that I need to go to church every Sunday is that I don't believe that came from God...I believe that came from those who wrote down words inspired by God but wanted to make sure that everyone did as they were told.

I would say "guess I'm going to hell..." but I don't really believe in hell either.

It is this belief of mine that leads me to the conclusion that God, Brahma, Allah, etc etc are all expressions of the same Divine, and I'm quite happy in that belief. Doesn't make me that popular, I suppose, in church-going circles though.

AmyMB said...

That may mean you aren't a Christian - but it doesn't mean that other Christians aren't going to love you. I mean, look at your brother and sister - they're Christian pastors. You know they believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to God - and you know they know what you think and believe, but they still love you.
I'm Christian, and I love you, just like you loved me even through all of my spiritual explorations.
I went through a time, too, as you well know, when I renounced Christianity and denied that the Bible was the word of God and said that all religions were equal paths to the same Divinity, etc. etc. Well, you were there...you know what that was like.
God opened my eyes for me and led me to the truth - rather unwillingly at first, but hey...I'm stubborn like that.

AmyMB said...

"I just want to remind folks about things like the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Holocaust...all things that had to do with disagreements with the Christian faith to some degree or another. Glass houses and stones."

And maybe in a couple hundred years, jihadist Muslims will have matured to the point where they're no longer killing people who disagree with them.
Oh, and I'll give you the Crusades and the Inquisitions and the Witch trials, but the Holocaust? Not sure how that one fits in. That was not a war about Christianity vs the Jews.

"True, but in fairness what is the connotation of "extremist" on each side? How often do we see fundamentalist believing Christians touted as pious or "role models," yet fundamentalist Muslims are terrorists and "evil-doers?"

Um, quite often, I would imagine, because fundamentalist Christians are praying and preaching and not bombing innocent civilians and decapitating people. What exactly is your definition of "terrorism" if it's not killing people who aren't exactly like you solely because of their beliefs?
And yes, I've already agreed that Christianity has a rather dark past and has committed its fair share of misdeeds in the name of religion - hundreds of years ago. But now? Even the most fundamentalist Christians look like bastions of tolerance and liberalism compared to jihadists.

Nan said...

The abortion clinic bombers are a current example of fundie Christianity.

Hitler was a Christian wasn't he? I think he was Catholic but I might be wrong. But I do know that while it was an attempt to be rid of a certain ethnic group, that ethnic group's identity is strongly tied to its religion, which is not Christian.

I'm not a Christian, I guess. I'm a follower of Jesus and of God. I'm not a follower of Islam or Hindi...my belief system includes the God of the Hebrew tradition because that's how I was raised. But I'm just not going to say that I'm right and others are wrong. In my view, that's putting myself on par with God. But that's just my view.

AmyMB said...

"But I do know that while it was an attempt to be rid of a certain ethnic group, that ethnic group's identity is strongly tied to its religion, which is not Christian."

Sure, but you can't blame every attempt to massacre a non-Christian religious group on the Christians. I mean, jihadist Muslims would LOVE to see Israel (i.e. Jews) wiped off the map right now, and you certainly can't blame that on Christianity.
No, you can't say that the Holocaust was a Christian war or that it had anything to do with extremist Christians, not without some stronger evidence than "well, wasn't Hitler Christian?"
He wasn't trying to advance Christianity - he was trying to advance his idea of a "master race". It was ethnic, not religious.

Abortion clinic bombers are radical extremists, not "fundamentalist Christians." A fundamentalist Christian is, in simplest terms, one who believes in the infallibility of the Bible as a literal, historical record. Fundamentalism does not and should not imply participation in radical, extremist activities.
From Wikipedia:
""Fundamentalist" describes a movement to return to what is considered the defining or founding principles of the religion. It has especially come to refer to any religious enclave that intentionally resists identification with the larger religious group in which it originally arose, on the basis that fundamental principles upon which the larger religious group is supposedly founded have become corrupt or displaced by alternative principles hostile to its identity."
So, if we're going to discuss radical extremists, let's call them that, because, while most radical extremists who call themselves Christians might be fundamentalist in nature, most fundamentalist Christians are NOT radical extremists.

Elizabeth said...

what an excellent debate.

When Nan said. "It is this belief of mine that leads me to the conclusion that God, Brahma, Allah, etc etc are all expressions of the same Divine, and I'm quite happy in that belief."

I'm totally with you on that one. I believe in God but I also believe in other religions' 'God' as well. And I certainly believe in the right to follow whatever God you wish.

See ya'll in hell.
:)

AmyMB said...

I, too, believe in the right to follow whatever religion you wish. I'm a firm supporter of the Constitution, which allows us the freedom to do so.

That doesn't mean I have to agree with the tenets of other religions. Too often, people think that if you don't agree with them, you're ignorant, bigoted, racist, intolerant or insert other demeaning and patronizing adjective here.

I can respect your right to believe whatever you want and still think you're completely wrong.

Elizabeth said...

I suppose - but I wish you were a bit more open minded. No big whoop.

Andrew said...

Now here we go!

The original post is about a sign outside a church placed by someone who obviously wants a career in movie advertising - taking a quotation out of context. Unfortunately we see here the reason why they don't have such a career - they don't fully understand that the reason for taking a quotation out of context is to allow them to twist what was originally said to have some other meaning - in this case they don't appear to know what they actually want to say.

On to the further debate about other religions. Firstly, Christianity is not a religion in itself, it is a collection of major and minor religions which all get lumped together under a single banner. The same can also be said for may other religions, including those of Islam. Another important point is that many religions believe in the same God, including Christianity and Islam - in fact, Muslims also teaches about Christ, however they do do hold him in the same high regard as Christians do - see here.

Andrew

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