Sunday, December 28, 2014

Walkin' the Line

Years ago, a minister named Kenneth Hagin made a comment that the Christian church goes to such extremes that it finds itself in either one ditch or the other, never seeming to stay in the middle of the road very long. Even though he was the leading voice of the Name-it-claim-it faith movement (clearly nestled in one of the ditches), I have to say that he was on to something there.

Extremes. That seems to sum up us humans pretty well. We go all in on the things that we are drawn to. Some are simply more culturally acceptable than others. For instance, thanks to recent Marvel movies, being a comic book geek is not such a weird thing anymore. Those people have moved out of their parents' basements and now are filling convention centers to beyond capacity. Are they extremists? In a sense, yes. But they are acceptable extremists.

As a person on a sabbatical from "intellectual Christianity", I find myself reflecting on what brought me to where I am. I also find I'm hypersensitive to the extremes. Maybe it's my fear of finding myself in one of the ditches again.

I used to be in one ditch as a youth. I was, what I considered, a devout Catholic. I was an altar boy. I read my father's prayer book (including the Latin - which was indecipherable to me) over and over. As I grew older, I joined the music team at the church - making up tenor harmonies as a 14-year old in a then-contemporary guitar group. Even after becoming a born-again Christian (which could be considered an extreme by some), I still attended the Catholic church for awhile.

As I mentioned above, I was what I considered a devout Catholic. Recently, my wife and I had an experience with a REALLY devout Catholic that ended up spawning this particular post.

Since I started this sabbatical, my wife has chosen to go to a local Catholic church. In their bulletin was a blurb asking for donations of gently-used Catholic items. There is a Catholic book/gift store that was accepting these donations. My wife had some that travelled from her condo to our house that never really got out of the boxes. We gathered them up and went to drop them off. There we met a lady on staff who believed every person who walked in was straight from the Vatican in their devotion to Catholicism. We certainly didn't fit the description, but she didn't know that. She talked about Saint This and Sister So-and-So, and showed us books from authors I've never heard of. They might as well have been bloggers! (Oh, wait.)

As we were trying to leave, she kept bringing up more and more things that might interest. The last was to point out the state banner of Mary (apparently, every state has one for their individual state). If we wanted to, we were encouraged to bring in our rosaries so that we could touch them to the banner and receive a special blessing.

It was a bit muddy in that ditch.

On the Protestant side, as I've made known in previous blogs, we have the worship of the bible. Just because you put the word "Holy" on the cover, does not automatically make it an object of worship. I believe that the bible CONTAINS the word of God, but it is NOT the word of God. There are many things in there that are clearly historical in nature, and statements made by the writers that tell you what you are reading is their opinion and not that of the Lord. (For example, the tradition of dedicating children instead of baptizing them is based on something Paul said, and not the Lord - 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 NKJV)

There is a passage in the epistles (2 Timothy) that says all scripture is given by inspiration of God. This is one of those passages that I hear quoted to prove that the whole bible is inspired of God, and therefore worthy of the title of "Holy". I like to point out that when Paul wrote that letter to Timothy, he was not referring to the letter he was writing as scripture! That's a lot of hutzpah! In actuality, whenever "scripture" is referenced in the New Testament, what is referred to is the OLD Testament. That was all they had! They had no idea that what they were writing was going to be compiled into a book.

So, on one side you have the worship of the bible - that everything in it is pure, inerrant, and holy, and on the other you have touching rosaries to pictures of Mary to get blessings - which is found NOWHERE in the bible.

Extremism is found on both sides of the aisle, for sure. It's easy to go from one side to the other. If man says it, most likely it has an agenda and is full of error. Think of the extreme sides when it comes to climate change, evolution, religious beliefs, politics, and whether or not coffee (chocolate, or eggs) is good for you.

So in closing, consider taking a spiritual Breathalyzer, try to walk the line, and stay out of the ditches!

(The title is inspired from Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" - "I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. … I walk the line.")

© Emittravel 2014

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