Saturday, November 25, 2006

Just Some thoughts...

Just some thoughts as I go about selling tons of books to tons of people. It's amazing how many times I hear "Happy Holidays" during the December month, and I'm not going to sit here and argue the use of "Holidays" instead of Christmas, or the obvious domination of the commercialized secularization of Christmas and its impact on religion. There are articles, books, and blogs galore on this topic. My observations are more personal.

It seems strange that, among the countless Christmas songs we here played over the Musak systems at the stores, so many of them are about Christ's birth. In a time when we try not to offend anyone by taking all meaning out of anything, we think nothing about including Christian Carols along with the Santa Claus tunes. In particular, one I've been listening to is a bluegrass/folk duo, Robin and Linda Williams, and their album, The Christmas Gift. They perfectly blend the images of Christmas here in America (although, granted, from a uniquely Appalachian (sp) view), and directly relate it to the story of the Nativity. An amazing use of a capella and 3/4 time, old time country singing and nostalgic themes that gives the album appeal. They use no traditional carols, but instead find gems that should be played as much as the ones oft heard in shopping centers.

Another person that has influenced my thinking of late is Mark Lowry, who's comedy and intimate and knowledgeable sermons are mixed perfectly together. He talks on Mark Lowry goes to Hollywood about how God opened up Christianity from just his Chosen people to include the "Gentiles," who would be everyone. Everyone should be allowed to believe in God. No forcing, no exclusion, no inclusiveness. Another point Mark makes is that now, many Christians try to exclude people because of their lifestyles, because of the way they dress or other discriminating factors.
And that got me to thinking.... it's obvious that what people see in Christians is the snobbish, prejudiced people that some are (although, not, in my opinion, everyone.) And I can see that, because there have been some churches I have been to that clearly did not want us there. You could see icicles hanging off the ceiling. Why should anyone look favorably in a religion that is so prejudiced against anyone that is not just exactly like them? Of course, that is not the way things are, but a few people like that can influence the way everyone looks at a group.

God loves the sinner, and hates the sin. We should love the sinner, and hate our own sin. That's what Mark said in his video. And did not God also say to "Love the Lord your God and Love one another as yourselves" (paraphrased, cause I don't have a Bible with me). Nowhere did it say to hate those people who believe differently than you or have a different lifestyle. I agree with Joel Osteen, who says that it is up to God to judge the sins of others, not for us. So if you look at Mark Lowry, and Joel Osteen, they can be very content in their faith, happy and loving toward all people around them. Isn't this what Jesus did as well? Sure, he got mad at some people, but mostly he got mad at the hypocrites, not at the outcast, at the unbelievers. This is the way we should all believe. Let us remain confident in our faith, in our own relationship with God, and love those around us, because it is up to God to judge those who have sinned, not us. We can each individually have a relationship with God, and it is up to us to act as He would have us do, not what a denomination or a person or whatever. And yet we try to govern the morals of other people, through legislation, through the courts, and it becomes a perversion of what people should do.

Republicans are constantly urging for less government involvement in people's lives, until it becomes a moral issue, and then the more regulation, the better. And Democrats believe that they should be able to legislate everything, bending on moral issues whenever their constituents believe it right (in other words, whatever gets them elected). My political belief and my religious belief are the same. Let us not legislate or discriminate based on morals, but let God and the individual work that out. In politics, the individual should know what is right and what is wrong, based on their beliefs and the will of God. Therefore, governmental legislation on the private lives of its citizens should be very minimal. The government is there to protect, defend, and provide for its citizens, not to govern the citizen's private lives. In matters of faith, the church should not be the body that governs the personal lives of it's members, but rather God himself. The individual should know what is right and wrong based upon the word of God and should act according to the relationship that he or she has with God.

So what's my point with all this? The point being, is that, while I was driving back from work with my Christmas Carols playing, I was very happy with myself, with my faith, with the belief that God has put me here for a reason, and that there have been times in the past where if God had not had a plan for me, I wouldn't be here now. And that is enough. Enough that I shouldn't care what churches think about who I am or if they should discriminate against me for any reason. It doesn't matter. I have a relationship with God that is my own, and there is no church that can legislate that relationship. let the churches open the doors to the outcast, to the people of this world, and cease to discriminate against everyone. God has enough love for everyone, and so should we. The church's responsibility should be to provide the material (the Bible) that should guide a person in his relationship with God, and also provide knowledgeable people to help people understand the material in the Bible. There are very few teachers I have seen in church that I would have them teach me in the ways of religion and belief. Why should I have teachers instruct me in the ways of faith when their methods are more of brainwashing and of mere socialization with the students rather than a philosophical and theological examination of the ways of faith and belief.

Anyway, just some ramblings as I attempt to put together this whole Christmas feeling, separate it from the secular commercial Christmas, and define why people believe the way they believe. Especially in this world where terrorists hate the Christians, and Christians hate non-Christians, where discrimination and bigotry remains as much alive now as ever, and that's clearly not the way Christianity should be, especially now, with the peace of Christmas upon us.

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