IamA pastor (ordained clergy) in a United Methodist Church. AMA!
My daughter is home sick today, and I think engaging in this sort of thing is helpful to me as a pastor and, hopefully, helpful to those of you who have spiritual questions or want to know what the real life of a minister is all about. So ask away. No questions too personal (I am choosing to keep this anonymous) or too ridiculous. I just ask that whoever asks "How can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning, considering that you mislead people every day?" lets it go after asking it once. That question gets boring after I'm asked it a hundred times. :)
My Proof: I'm sending this to the moderators. It's not that I am hiding or anything--but if I am going to answer personal questions, I need to stay anonymous. Peace.
What one moment in your life has most shaken your faith, and how did you "get it back" or whatever the term might be?
So, its funny. I don't think I have ever had this great conversion moment, nor a moment where I felt like my doubt so overtook me that I lost faith or whatever. I mean, do I doubt? Yeah, of course. Anybody who says they don't is lying or unthinking. My faith is sufficiently intellectual (that is, as opposed to emotional) that when bad things happen, I don't lose faith or whatever because I don't think God causes bad things. That said, my wife has had cancer, my niece died, one of my best friends committed suicide when we were teenagers. These kinds of things would be faith-shaking for anybody. You know what most shakes my faith, though? When people act like they're all religious and then live as if nothing is different. I mean, that makes me question my calling more than anything else. As to getting it back or whatever, again, I just always seem to come back to the idea that GOd is love and that the business of sharing that love with others is the most important thing in the whole world. Is that a sufficient way of talking around your question? :)
My faith is sufficiently intellectual (that is, as opposed to emotional) that when bad things happen, I don't lose faith or whatever because I don't think God causes bad
Can you elaborate more on this point? I am trying not to sound like a generic smug atheist, but I generally find that more religious people base it on emotion and a personal conviction rather than an intellectual basis, so maybe you can clarify what conclusions you have come to.
You know what most shakes my faith, though? When people act like they're all religious and then live as if nothing is different
That's a good answer; better than a personal tragedy or something like that. Do you still consider those people "religious," or do you think that a person has to walk the walk, so to speak?
YOu don't sound like a GSA (generic smug atheist) at all. I don't mean to suggest that you can separate emotion entirely from faith--you're cutting off your own legs when you do that--but I also think that when you rely too much on heart-faith without engaging head-faith, you risk a faith that crumbles whenever bad things happen. So it is an interesting thing to think about reason in the life of faith, because in some ways faith is beyond reason. But I do think reason has an important role to play. I think about all the good the church has done throughout the centuries--and yes, there has been bad, but there has been so much more good--and I understand, rationally, that there is something there to explore. I see order in the planets and I think the same thing. I see incredible sacrificial gifts from people who are just incredibly driven and faithful, and I think that yes, faith is real. And I think about creation, about the fact that it is good, the fact that there is so much good in the world, and I see that perhaps there is a greater force at work. Besides, as I have said here somewhere, being drawn out of myself is important--and, I think, an intellectual exercise. SO I can't prove God exists with any sort of equation. But that's not to remove reason from my faith.
as to the second question. Yeah, I guess so, although Jesus had some choice things to say about the religious folks in his day! I am less concerned with whether someone is religious than if they are exhibiting signs of being faithful, of being different because of what they say they believe. Of course, we're all on a journey, and you've got to start somewhere, so you don't become faithful overnight (though the Baptists would disagree with me on this point). The word we sometimes use in the church for "walking the walk" is "fruit." Do you bear fruit? That's a key to faithfulness.
Would you agree that faith is necessary to fulfill God's purpose? Or do you think God would be ok with good people not believing in him?
I believe that we were created to be in relationship with one another and with God. So, while I don't think God gets too hung up on people not believing in God, I have to think God would prefer we all love one another and love God.
Well, I'd much rather hear that than always getting the old I'll burn in hell for all eternity for not believing in god.
Do you think there may be extraterrestrial civilizations? If so, given the fact they never knew Jesus, what do you think their relationship with God should be?
Yeah, I think mathematically speaking, there likely are extraterrestrial civilization. And I don't know whether or not they've been exposed Jesus--but if they exist, I guarantee they've experienced God in the same way all of us have, because God's love knows no bounds.
The native americans had many gods that are equally valid, so did the Greeks, and Vikings.
What if an alien god has manifested in a way that is incompatible with Christian teachings? For example,
What if they claim God would never send his son to die for our sins
What if their God is actually a woman, or sexless?
What if their culture has never manifested violence at all?
Are these rhetoricals? Or are you asking what happens if I encounter a culture with a religion completely antithetical to mine? I do the same thing I do now, which is that I listen to what they have to offer and discover that the things I thought were antithetical really aren't.
Also, God is sexless, or intersexed, depending on your perspective. Though we hear more about God as father, there are instances in the Bible in which God is depicted as feminine (or plural!)
"I just always seem to come back to the idea that God is love and that the business of sharing that love with others is the most important thing in the whole world."
This is the type of pastor we need. Immense respect you for.
Thanks. This is hard work, and often thankless. I appreciate the comment more than you know.
Is God love, or the creator of the universe? Do you believe that love created the universe? Your beliefs seem confusing to me.
"Love created the universe!" Yes! I love this!
I don't lose faith or whatever because I don't think God causes bad things.
Can something happen in the universe that goes against the will of your god?
Of course! It happens every time a child dies, or a tragedy occurs, or somebody gets hurt by the church. God doesn't control every aspect of the universe any more than I control whether my car breaks down.
The difference between you and your car in relation to the universe and its creator should be pretty glaring. You (presumably) have only a limited knowledge of internal combustion engines, you (presumably) have limited tools on hand to fix problems that arise, and most of all, you didn't create the entire vehicle and the system of physics -upon which the vehicle's operation is contingent- from thin air.
The larger point I'm making here is that if things happen in the universe that go against your god's will, then your god isn't all powerful. And I guess you could say that you personally never claimed that god was all powerful, but legions of Christians before you have, and so did the people who started the Methodist Church, and as an ordained minister, I can only assume you follow what the church teaches.
You are correct in that I don't think of God as all powerful. But I don't think that my particular belief is necessary to end up where I do. If God gave humans the gift of free will (as hewhoreddits6 so eloquently states below), then (as the bumper sticker says), shit will happen. Rather than causing tragedies, I believe that God cries alongside us as we grieve and supports us as we pick up the pieces. But this is a question that has haunted two thousand years worth of Christians, so its not a new problem.
The way I understood it is that God gave us the right of free will, so we can choose to do good or bad. He doesn't want us to love him because we are forced to. Some people choose to use that free will for bad, and that is why many bad things happen. I believe that God CAN control it, but doesn't.
So my question is, is your belief a personal one or one consistent with methodists? I'm an evangelical, but technically my church doesn't belong to any particular sect and I don't have that much knowledge about their beliefs.
United Methodists are a big tent. I don't think I've said anything too out there for mainstream Methodism. Some of us are conservative, some of us are not. On this particular issue, I'm definitely in the mainstream of United Methodism (and mainline Christianity)
I was raised in a United Methodist Church and I've always considered it to be the most relaxed religion. Growing up (in the 80s & 90s), it was very clear to me that my church was very open and accepting of anyone who wanted to come in. In my Confirmation class, we attended other religious services and were welcomed to open our hearts and minds to blend other ideologies/theologies with our existing beliefs. I lived in an ethnically diverse area and I think that experience helped in getting to know other people.
If I were to return to church, it would be to a UMC. (As long as it's a traditional service, not one of those "PowerPoint Churches." I hate that stuff.)
Give it a try! You'll like it!
I grew up Methodist with a liberal pastor. I lost my faith long before I stopped attending church because I loved so much what the pastor would preach. Your responses to these questions do not disappoint. Thank you for holding up my understanding of the Methodist church. I know there's no question here, I just wanted you to know that your brand of Methodism is the Kryptonite to my usual smug atheism.
Thanks. Means a lot.
Can I just add that one of these days you ought to give faith a try? Not necessarily my brand, nor the one in which you were raised. But maybe, just maybe, there is something bigger than you calling you outside of yourself. It's worth a go, anyhow.
It really isnt that easy, though I suppose I can only speak for myself. I have no doubts that there are living things far more powerful than ourselves somewhere out there, but only because the universe is so incredibly vast and ancient. Convincing me of what amounts to magic would require very strong evidence. Im fairly sure that evidence is not forthcoming, therefore I cannot "give faith a try" without being dishonest.
You really cant choose to be an athiest or not.
That's cool. I don't mean to manipulate you or whatever. I do want to be clear that what I am talking about here is NOT magic in any sense of the word, and I think giving faith a try is not dishonest as long as you are being open rather than trying to make yourself believe something. There's a difference. Anyway, best wishes to you. I hope you find what you're looking for.
Like...like zues? (:
I'm going to go with Jesus on this one I think.
Can I just say that you all are pretty incredible? I am blown away by theses questions and responses. I really should have been working on my sermon today, but instead, I've done this, and it has been life giving. I'll keep answering as I am able (the kid is still napping). Thanks. Really.
First, I have a few questions to narrow down your specific beliefs.
How old do you think the Earth is?
What are your views on evolution?
What are your views on gay marriage?
If there is a hell, do you think I'm going there for being an atheist? (Assuming I never convert, even on my deathbed)
Edit: 5. Do you believe the stories in the bible are literal or more allegorical?
Not a scientist. I leave the business of the earth being old to people who actually know about, you know, geology. What are my views on evolution? We're still doing it. We've been doing it for a long time. Gay marriage? Ah, so I disagree with my denomination on this one and I have been fighting to change it. The United Methodist Church says that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and because the church is growing in (conservative churches in) Africa, we haven't been able to change it yet. As for me, I am a big fan of marriage, and my argument in favor of marriage equality is, I think, a conservative argument. Why wouldn't we want the great, fundamentally conservative institution of marriage open to others?! So yeah, I'm pro. In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So no, you're not going to hell. And some silly deathbed decision isn't going to change that.
I'm glad that you accept science as being it's own realm, and I'm satisfied with most of those answers (not that it's your job to satisfy me).
The only question I have is still related to evolution:
Do you think God is guiding our evolution? And do you think humans have always had "souls", or did they come about through evolution?
I think God is interested in us! So God is involved in evolution just like God is involved in all things, drawing us closer together. But is God standing above evolution like a puppeteer? Of course not. That's ridiculous. As to souls, this is a modern concept. We are not bodies + souls. We are holistic beings, with all of our natures fully integrated. What part of me is going to be with God after I die? That I don't know. But you can't separate the soul from the body or the mind.
We are not bodies + souls
Interesting, most religious people I have met tend to agree that they can be separated. They may be a single entity now, but after death only the "soul" lives on.
Do you believe that animals have souls?
I would argue that most "religious people," however you define that, haven't thought much about the issue. In fact, the understanding that at death only the soul lives on is part of the heresy of Gnosticism. That's not to say that all heretics are awful. Just to say that it is not in the mainstream of Christianity.
As far as animals having souls--I don't really believe that you can separate the word "soul" from who we are as material, intellectual, spiritual beings so I am not sure how to answer the question. I am not being cute--I just don't really understand the soul that way. I love barbecue, for whatever that is worth.
I just feel that if the soul is something natural, something that came about through evolution and is part of us, then animals should have something similar (or could have something similar in the future).
And I think you understood where I was taking that, it brings up all kinds of moral questions about consuming animals.
I also love barbecue, this isn't meant to be criticism, just understanding.
Hey, its cool. Don't see this as criticism at all! I appreciate the engagement. The questions about consuming animals are legitimate. The ethicist Peter Singer has argued that humans should be able to kill babies until they reach a certain age/stage of development where they become self-aware. He uses the same logic on animals, saying that we should not eat. Obviously I don't agree with the logic, but to deny the questions are there is to ignore real issues. My problem with eating meat (which, again, I do--I just try not to do it all that often) is one of sustainability. So I think there is something special about human.
As a gay person who believes in evolution (and is not necessarily an Atheist) you are the first Pastor/Minister on IAmA that I actually want to upvote. You are a good man and I hope that all Christians follow from your example of goodwill and kindness.
Re: literal vs. allegorical: it depends.
This is such a refreshing answer! Thank you.
I've attended a few different Methodist churches. One was pretty liberal, and while they did not refer to gay marriage or homosexuality, my gay friends felt comfortable attending. Then, I tried attending church in a more rural, conservative town. I stopped going after sitting through a Sunday school lecture (I was in high school) about how watching the show Will and Grace was a sin because it was promoting homosexuality. The pastor not only stated that gay people go to hell, but implied that we would too if we kept watching the show. I was in shock.
I'm glad to hear reasonable answers from you, answers that are more in line with my positive memories of Methodist churches.
My biggest problem with Will and Grace is that it wasn't very funny.
In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So no, you're not going to hell.
i'm quite sure that methodist/christian belief is that jesus christ is the only way to heaven. are you suggesting some sort of purgatory? john 14:6 is pretty clear of that. romans 8:38 im quite sure is speaking to believers and that nothing can separate you from your salvation.
eh, when I read "nothing can separate you from the love of God," I am going to go ahead and assume he means nothing. And no, I don't believe in purgatory. I don't want to down play the importance of accepting Christ. I just also want to do justice to the wideness of God's mercy. That means to me, if we're going to get philosophical about it, that if death can't separate us, it's never too late to initiate a relationship with God.
By this, do you mean that there is still a chance of redemption for the people in hell? Or do you dismiss the idea of hell being literal?
I read and really enjoyed Love Wins by Rob Bell. It gave me a lot of important questions to consider. If you have read it, any thoughts? Any similarities to what you're describing?
This is a question I have NO IDEA what the answer is. I'm happy to hang my hat on the love of God being so pervasive that there is no escaping it, but as to what Hell is like, you'll have to ask Hitler and the guy who played Bozo the Clown.
I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I mean, I really don't know about Hell. If I were pressed and needed to choose, I'd say that hell is real but that it is a concept that speaks more about life than about what happens after death. I haven't read Love Wins in depth (Rob Bell's writing style drives me CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!) but I am familiar with it. I think he'd agree with me on a lot of this.
I don't want to down play the importance of accepting Christ.
then why would you say something that is against your church's teaching? if jesus is the only way to heaven, how could an atheist/any other non-believer enter into heaven? how would you initiate a relationship with god after death? if the believing thief entered into heaven that day on the cross beside jesus, where did the other non-believing criminal go? if you don't really believe a lot of the things that Methodists believe, why are you still one?
To answer your last question: the potlucks.
First off, the American idea of hell which most non-Christians interpret as the dominant theory or understand of the afterlife - eternal conscious torment - is not the predominant understanding of the afterlife for most of history. Sure, there are passages in the bible that seem to indicate that, but there are just as many that indicate "hell" is a ceasing to exist in any way, or that the mercy of God has no bounds and in the eternal we all come to know and love God.
Personally, I think it is mostly the third, with a smattering of the second for those that truly wish no relationship with God. He won't force it on you, it is your choice. With this understanding, Hell ceases to be punitive and becomes redemptive. It is the painful process by which we come to understand the impact of our sins and come to terms with just how broken we actually are, even those of us that do believe in Jesus here on Earth.
The eternal fire and brimstone Hell that is popularized in many new (younger than 300 years old) branches of Christianity just doesn't have the prevalence in history that it has today. I think that the prevalence it has today seriously harms the message that Jesus brought:
Love Love God - that which is eternal, greater than you, and first loved you - with all your hearth, soul and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.
Anyone who isn't doing those things and yet claim to be a Christian... well, some people are wrong, and some are jerks.
Why wouldn't we want the great, fundamentally conservative institution of marriage open to others?!
How do you reconcile this belief with the Bible's repeated condemnation of the homosexual act?
So no, you're not going to hell.
How do you reconcile this statement (without a qualifying statement of God's salvation plan for sinners) with Romans 6:23? This question of course hangs on the interpretation of the bible that calls the homosexual act a sin.
The people who wrote the Bible didn't know anything about the science or sociology of homosexuality. So I take their perspective on this issue with the same grain of salt with which I take their perspective on slavery.
I don't see any issue with the Romans verse. It doesn't seem to put qualifiers on my actions--but on God's response. That's not to say I can justify every verse. I can't. But then again truth is found in scripture as primary, but with reason tradition and experience as lenses.
If you found out there was no god how would you react/feel and what changes in your life would you make? What do you think you would do for a living instead?
I think much of my behavior would stay the same. My faith gives me many parameters for behavior and (especially) serving others that I think still make sense if you take the God piece out of it. But, then again, it is hard for me to say, because much of what drives me to serve others is that I believe that we are all children of God and thus all family. Also, I give away a lot of money, to the church and other places. I am not saying I only do this because I want God to like me or whatever, but I will say I feel inspired to give in a way that I probably wouldn't otherwise. As far as what I would do--I was a political science major. I think I'd go into politics. Maybe write.
How do you feel about contemporary music in the church? I work in a Methodist church as a contemporary praise team leader, and I've heard so many opinions on the matter. It would be nice to hear from a Methodist pastor (outside of my own) on the matter.
It's not my thing, but it is for some folks. I do NOT think that it is the key to getting young folks into the church--most contemporary music appeals to boomers more than anybody my generation (I am 30). And I have two theological issues with most--not all--but most contemporary music. First, it is mostly about ME and MY God rather than US. And second, the theology is often really Calvinistic--all about how God is in control and that sort of thing. There's no room for free will.
Thanks. Keep going to church--there is power in the ritual!
Why would singing about "My God" be a bad thing? From my understanding your relationship with God is an individual experience.
It's not a bad thing in and of itself, but it doesn't do justice to the God who is God of everybody, not just me. I do think that you (and I) have an individual relationship with GOd, but it is lived in community, so it is not inherently individualistic.
I grew up in a religious home and was religious until my late teens. But religion often made me feel judged and guilty for being myself. I wasn't myself all the years I grew up and I can't help but feel angry and pissed off at religion for making me feel like that. I've found as I've become separated now from that life that what most pastors preach is opinion and not really what the bible says at all. Any thoughts, I guess?
Yeah, of course I have thoughts. Mostly, I'm sorry. More abuse has been done in the name of religion than just about anything else. As somebody who thinks God wants us to love one another, it just about makes me want to cry. Of course, this is nothing new. Jesus had some harsh things to say about the religious people in his day. That's not a lot of comfort, of course, but its something. For what it is worth, I grew up in a similar conservative home and have had my own baggage to work through. I've found the more moderate to progressive church to be life giving. But I get it--I really do.
First of, I am not Christian, and I was not raised around Christians. I know more of Catholicism than I do any other Christian group.
Could you give me a TL;DR on what makes the Methodist Church different from other churches? Whenever I've tried to ask people I often get answers that have to do with friends and atmosphere and not theology.
I'm a lay member of the United Methodist Church, but I may be able to help field this one.
For me, at least, the key is the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, taught that church Tradition is not the final word on theology. And in contrast to many Protestant denominations, neither is Scripture itself sufficient (as in some interpretations of Sola Scriptura). He taught that your own Experience and Reason are just as important, and that is why I love Methodism.
Episcopalianism (Anglicanism) has a similar concept, that of the "three-legged stool" - faith being upheld by scripture, tradition, and reason. You can't have a balanced religion without considering all of those sources, and ignoring one leads to unbalanced worship that diverges from Christianity's essence.
Yeah, John Wesley was an Anglican priest so we are closely related. In his adding of experience as a lens to truth, Wesley changed things up a bit.
Much appreciated, thanks!
Right on! Thanks for jumping in there. I would just add that scripture is primary, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be interpreted in light of tradition, reason, and experience. Another thing that is central to Methodist theology is that we believe that works of piety (prayer, devotion, reading the Bible, etc) must be balanced with works of mercy (working for justice, feeding the hungry, etc). That's pretty foundational to who we are. Finally, one of the central tenets of the UMC is that we celebrate an open table. That means that whenever we have communion, everybody is invited, no exceptions. This speaks of our believe that all people are children of God.
Is alcohol forbidden? I faintly remember seeing that somewhere, and I've never been to a UMC that didn't serve juice instead of wine at Communion.
Legend has it that grape juice was invented by a Methodist (Welch as in Welch's grape juice) because he saw an alcoholic fall off the wagon after drinking communion wine. However, I am not aware of any prohibitions against alcohol in modern Methodist rules of discipline. Grape juice has been used in every Methodist communion I've ever taken part in, but I think that more tradition than requirement. Also, since Methodists don't believe in literal transubstantiation, why not use grape juice?
I also don't personally know any Methodist teetotalers. Alcohol, like pretty much everything else, is fine up until it causes problems for yourself or others.
We use juice out of respect for those who a) don't drink or b) struggle with alcoholism. I've been in UM contexts where there were three stations at communion, two with wine and one with juice. But in my current church, we stick with juice and then I go home and have a bourbon.
Do you believe that religion should just serve as a means for people to be good and help each other? Or do you believe that one specific religion, and one specific way of interpreting that religion, is required?
The reason I am having trouble answering "yes" to the first question is that you included the word "just." Religion is not JUST a means for people to be good and help eachother. There's a relational aspect that touches something divine beyond ourselves that is important. So one of the reasons I love the United Methodist faith is that we believe that you should engage in acts of piety (prayer, personal devotion, etc) and acts of mercy or justice (helping others, trying to fix unjust systems in society, etc). As to the second question--obviously I'm a big fan of Jesus, and I think that living as he calls us to live is just about the best way I've ever found. But as the theologian PauL Tillich (among others) observed, surely God/the divine is far larger than our own human comprehension. Tillich talked about the God beyond God, that (majority) part of God that is beyond our sight lines. For me to say that one way is required is to keep God confined within my own understanding, and my own understanding is pretty limited.
Isn't part of the mystery and wonder of God's existence that He is beyond our full understanding? Having given my senior sermon on Trinity Sunday, my priest and I discussed this in-depth, and one thing he said stuck with me: "the Trinity is beyond defining, by the very nature of its existence. We simply can't comprehend the meaning of three-in-one and one-as-three, and by defining God based on your understanding, you put limits on your concept of God that don't exist in Him." I'm curious where you stand on this concept.
I stand in full agreement. There's this incredible concent by the ancient writer known as the Pseudo-Dionysus. I don't know if I can adequately explain it without drawing on a whiteboard, but basically, think of a circle going clockwise. And you start at 12 o clock adding words that help you understand God: words like loving, omnipresent, giving, savior, etc, until you reach 6 o clock. Suddenly, in the interest of describing God, you've gotten even further away from God because you've put all these human labels on God. So you pluck them away, one at a time, first at 7 o clock and then at 8, until you're back at 12 again, having plucked each word away, and suddenly all you have to describe the holy mystery of God is utter silence. That's adequate in some ways but inadequate in others, so you start around the clock again. If this is interesting to you check out cataphatic and apophatic theology (I don't know if I spelled those right but you'll find it).
It's fascinating, and I was lucky enough that the priest that ran my Confirmation classes talked about pseudo-Dionysus at decent length. I've heard the concepts before, I just wasn't sure how common they were outside the Episcopal church.
Wow. Awesome. FWIW, I talk about PD fairly regularly, but mostly because I am fascinated by language.
wait. can somebody tell me why on earth this is labeled nsfw?!
Was Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter accurate compared to the book?
second favorite question after the one asking if ministers make a lot of money and how to get in on the cash. But I digress.
Sure. Why not.
I have been looking for a church for about 3 years now but I can't seem to find one that I can agree with. They are usually crazy, like preaching politics, evolution and global warming denial, and the dangers of premarital sex. As an educated adult looking to enhance my spirituality, would you recommend the Methodist church? I think part of my issue is that I don't need a person to tell me how to live my life, rather I'd like to share in a community of people to celebrate life, God, and love.
Sounds like you would be my perfect church member! :) Yeah, I think my church is pretty great. I will warn you, there is a really wide spectrum of United Methodist churches out there. Some really conservative, some not so much. So do some research online--you can learn a lot from a church website. And then get out there and look! It can be a scary experience to look for a group of people to share your life with. Are you in a big city? I wonder if there is a specific church I may know of that I could point you to?
I'm in Lone Tree, CO. Thanks for the reply!
So I really shouldn't do this, but the best church I know of near you is in Denver, and it is actually Lutheran. Its one of the coolest I know if. Check it out at houseforall.org. The pastor is one of my spiritual heroes. :) Short of that, do look for a UMC near you. Try out a couple--I bet you will find what you are looking for.
I was raised Lutheran, I'll check it out. Thank you! :)
You're welcome. It's, well, different. But it's pretty awesome, as I understand it. Hope to get out there one day to visit.
My girlfriend is a member of the Church of the Brethren, though she stopped actively participating a while ago due to certain incidents she still attends whenever she's home to please her family. I was invited to join a service one sunday and, well, lucked out I suppose, because the leader of the American Church of the Brethren was doing a tour and wanted to engange with the young adults after the service.
After he did a mini sermon during that young adult sunday school(which oddly enough, had a completely different idea of God than the pastor preached) he permitted a round of questions. I'd like to ask you the same question I asked him;
Do you believe in necessary evil? i.e. Using evil to stop further evil from being spread?
Hit me with a tough one why don't you! Seriously, this is one of the hardest questions in all of CHristian religion. Jesus said that when you are struck, offer your other cheek instead of striking back (this is what it means to turn the other cheek). The proponents of Just War theory say that turning the other cheek is actually a defensive posture, intended to put you on the same plane as the person who attacked you.
So honestly, I am of two minds about this. I know that there are people who want to destroy us and would gladly do so if we put our weapons down (though I acknowledge that our holding weapons in the first place is a big reason they want to destroy us!).
But I also consider myself something of a weak pacifist, meaning that I don't believe in violence as a principle and wouldn't hit you back if you walked up to me and punched me in the face. But if my wife or daughter were in danger, would I react violently? I think I probably would.
Now, that doesn't mean it is right. If you want to read more about this, check out the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a Christian theologian involved in a failed plot to kill Hitler. Bonhoeffer did not believe that God wanted him to engage in violence, but he thought it necessary to respond with violence anyway. It is a confusing argument, I realize, but a good case study for this sort of thing.
Thank you for your response, and the tip about Bonhoeffer. I did not know about him, so it will definitely be an interesting read.
I have to say, I like your answer a lot better than I did his. I asked the question almost two years ago so I can't give you his answer word for word. But it consisted of following Jesus in his footsteps, embodying non violence and rather try to seek the cause of violence and end that with a pacifistic approach, rather than meet it with force. He said that every drop of anger has a source, and thereby a (peaceful, through reason)solution.
I feel your reply is based on real world experience, rather than on what we hope to achieve as a person. Obviously a devout christian tries to emulate Jesus, but in my opinion that's not always possible.
I must insist that there is no right or wrong answer to this. Necessary evil is something that is just the farthest thing removed from Christianity one can imagine, I find it fascinating how different Christians respond to this.
Sorry for asking such a toughy.
Thanks for the compliment. I have to say, the answer you originally got is not so bad, especially as it calls us to engage those unjust systems that lead to violence. That's vitally important to our call as Christians!
Why are you of the Methodist denomination, and not Catholic, Baptist, Assembly of God, etc? I am asking this question because I am LDS (Mormon); you might know that the founder of my religion (Joseph Smith) considered joining the Methodist faith when he was young.
there are several answers to this question. I didn't grow up in the UMC and came upon it in college. For me, it was the right balance between personal piety and social holiness. In addition, the UMC is a big tent--there are crazy evangelical right-wing nuts and nearly-Godless liberal wackos. I happen to think both sides have something to teach the other. This is a geeky answer, but I also like our polity (structure). In the UMC, the Bishop decides which churches the ministers go to each year. I like the idea that someone has a bigger picture of the needs of the conference (group of churches) than my own narrow view. It also tells me that we believe that no one person has a handle on the truth.
What do you think of the idea of religious pluralism and the suggestion that all faiths/religions are valid?
Check out my earlier answer regarding my own understanding of GOd. I will just add that though I am deeply, DEEPLY committed to my own tradition, I am a pluralist at heart. Interfaith dialog is really, really helpful to me as I go beyond my own narrow understandings of what it means to be faithful. Now, are ALL faiths valid? Of course not. There are plenty of abusive faiths out there (I once attended a Scientology service as part of a college class, and, um, whoa). I had a classmate in seminary that once said something that has stuck with me. The quote is something along the lines of "I'm open to a lot of things, but to me it always comes back to Jesus's teaching that 'you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. On this commandment hangs all the lawn and the prophets.' That is my personal litmus test for right teaching."
I am an european catholic and have no idea what the methodist church is about ( I think all the different churches in the US are confusing :/. ) Can you explain your and your churches believes?
There's an answer above that I think will help you. It is in reply to gowahoo.
I'm applying to an M.Div program as we speak! I'm looking to become ordained in the UMC as well! I would LOVE it if you could answer some questions.
Are you an elder or a deacon?
Any advice for a young person seeking ordination?
How much say have you had in where you live?
How has your family dealt with being pastor's spouse, PK's etc?
Did the board of ordained ministry have any problems with this: "In the Book of Romans, the apostle Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. So no, you're not going to hell. And some silly deathbed decision isn't going to change that." haha?
Thanks! Also, come hang out at /r/Christianity sometime!
Hi! Sorry for the delay. I have a meeting up at the church and so I have a few minutes as I am waiting for everybody to arrive. Let me answer in order. 1. Elder 2. Yeah--do it. The church isn't going to change unless we go through the hoops and all the craziness that is bound up in our ordination process. Some of it I found more useful than I expected, some of it less so. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and wearing the stole feels awfully nice. I will also say that the stuff I've experienced about being young in ministry is almost all positive. I once guest preached and had a woman tell me that she reminded her of her grandson, and then proceeded to tell me that her grandson was seven years old. But the age stuff goes away when you engage in authentic ministry. The only other advice I would give you is to find and stay in touch with people around your age who are at your station in life: some in ministry and some outside it. My young clergy friends keep me sane--I seriously could not do this without them. And the nonclergy (and nonChristian) friends remind me that I work in a bubble and need to get outside of it sometimes. 3. Not much. But neither of my moves were surprises (I'd hear rumors) and both were exactly what I needed. Now I am in a city setting that is truly one of my favorite places on earth. God does work through the appointive process. Sometimes it is hard to see, and sometimes it doesn't work so well, but it usually does. 4. I am in an interesting position in that I am part of a clergy couple. My spouse also serves as a senior pastor. SOme weeks our child has a single parent, as one of us has a meeting every night. It is a challenge. But it is also a blessing to share a calling with the person I love the most. Our daughter isn't yet a year old so she's not hell on wheels as a PK, but I am sure it is coming. :) 5. Nope. Maybe I didn't say it so explicitly, but then again, I didn't hold back. My advice for the Board is to be authentic to yourself, and be clear about what you believe. The more you can ground your own theology in Wesley's, the better off you'll be. Plus, that's just good theology!
Thanks! And good luck! I've said a prayer for you today--now go fulfill your calling! Ordained ministry is truly the greatest privilege in life!
Nope. If it gets in the way of relationship with others or God, it's a sin. Just because it is fun doesn't mean it's wrong!
Keep the questions coming. Like I said, I'm home caring for a sick kid today so my answers may come in spurts. But I'm following and enjoying the conversation. What do you know--a civil conversation on the internet!
What kind of coffee do you drink?
French roast, black as sin. Grind my own beans.
What's wrong with your kid? :-)
How would you feel if he/she decided they didn't follow your beliefs? I have a very religious catholic mum and she's awesome but I know that it breaks her heart a little that she can't share what she's so passionate about to me.
Just a cold, I think. But breaking dad's heart. If she goes another way, I hope I'll respect that. But I think you've said it well in that I want to be able to share with her something which I find to be at the core of my being. That said, being a bit of a mystic has its benefits, as it means I can find lots of things at the core of my being that I share with others. :) It helps me stay grounded when dealing with difficult people.
I have a friend who is a UMC pastor and was at General Conference, and I followed some of her commentary as well as the general hoopla. What a mess. As I understand it, the voting body could not pass a motion that said they agreed to disagree about LGBT and the church -- because, being a global conference, the rather conservative African delegations spearheaded the vote against any relaxing of the rules about accepting homosexuality or gay marriage as part of the church.
My friend is having a hard time accepting this and the tradition of her faith. Those opposed tell her that "if she doesn't like Methodism, then get out -- don't try to re-legislate God's Law." (Which, in effect, is what they're doing by writing each edition of the Book of Discipline.)
Curious what your thoughts are here -- is UMC doomed to face some sort of schism? Is it impossible for a global church without a Pope-like figure to agree on hermeneutical interpretations? Do local churches and pastors just have to sigh and institute their own home rules while they secretly hold gay weddings without official church blessing?
/recovering Catholic just watching from the sidelines
We're going to split. I don't see any way around it. The conservatives in the UMC have relied upon the African delegates to retain exclusionary language on human sexuality, but there's significant pressure in the US (especially outside the southern US) to change the stance. When hundreds of pastors are risking church trial by performing gay marriages, something has to give. Besides, the African churches are conservative on sexuality but VERY VERY liberal on matters of money, and once they set a maximum salary for the denomination, all bets are off.
So yeah, its inevitable. I am all for a global church, but we can't pretend that we don't have different contexts, and that ministry (and God) don't look quite different in those contexs.
Thanks for the questions. I'll get proof to the moderators and q's answered as soon as the baby finishes her bottle
Hey, I'm around today, so if you have more questions, keep them coming.
Hey yall, thanks so much. Keep it coming. I have to take a break for a meeting and to do some family stuff. But I promise to get back to it and answer all your questions. I am so, so thankful for you.
Come back and answer mine first :)
I did. Satisfactory answers?
Excellent answers. Thank you. I am equal parts thrilled and terrified for the future.
Then you are doing it right! When I requested a move, I told the DS basically the same thing, that I found myself excited and terrified. He said that meant I was taking it seriously. My experience has borne that out. Seriously, this is the most important stuff in the whole world, and there is no privilege as great as being a minister in God's church. It is hard work, but my God, do I love it.
All right. Bedtime. I will check in tomorrow, so keep the questions coming! Thanks y'all. Peace
Yay for Methodism! My wife is a licensed local pursuing full ordination and I'll be starting on the elder track when we move back to my home state.
What is it that brought you specifically to the Methodist church?
Where did you attend seminary (can I ask that... I promise I don't know anybody anyway)?
What would you do if you lost your faith?
I've written a lot on this page about why I love the UMC but suffice it to say that within United Methodism, I found a helpful tension between evangelical piety and progressive works of mercy. So here I am.
I went to one of the official UMCs attached to a research university. :)
If I lost faith? I don't know. SOmehting in politics, perhaps. That's a passion.
Glad to know you're in process, or entering it at least. The ordination process is looooong. Riculously so. But other than my wife and child, ministry is the greatest blessing in my life. It's my prayer that the same is true for you.
I was raised in a long line of Methodist ministers (my grandfather, my father, my stepmother), and although I am no longer a believer, I have utmost respect for them. It's not the sermons, it's their actions. Their fight for social and civil justice. Their outreach to feed the hungry and clothe the naked - without even asking about the recipients' faith. It's nice.
I'm as angry as anyone about the pseudo Christians who lack the actions one would (justifiably) expect from a member of the cloth, or a member of a faith. However, I've seen the good and selfless actions of religious communities, and I commend you for taking a thankless and difficult career.
I... I guess I don't have a point. :) Just, thanks and good luck. You seem like a righteous dude who would get along VERY well with my family.
Hey, thanks. That's really kind. I guess I wonder why you don't consider yourself part of a community of faith? Is it ok if I ask you that? Did something happen to you or did you just give up? Everybody experiences doubt, so I am really just wondering.
Any advice for someone who is currently a certified candidate to be ordained as an elder and a seminarian at BUSTH?
Be yourself, and don't give up. Ministry is really, really, really hard. But it is incredible. Just incredible. The church needs openminded, faithful people. Keep at it. Seriously. God will bless that.
Can you talk about becoming ordained? From what I understand you have to go to bible school-seminary? Obviously, you would study the bible, but what are some examples of other philosophy, history, and theology that you study?
In the UMC, to be ordained, you have to have a Master of Divinity degree. I got mine from the theology school at a major research university. It is a full-time, three year degree, and it is not easy. We studied Christian theology, history, Old Testament, New Testament, theologians, philosophy, physiology of faith, models of ministry, issues of culture, and more. And then the United Methodist Church has an ordination process beyond that degree that requires extensive board interviews, a three year residency in ministry, a psychological interview, and another set of extensive interviews. It is not for the faint of heart.
Just wanted to say, I appreciate this AMA. I was raised Catholic(my moms side of the family was super Irish Catholic- her brother is priest and her sister is a nun- the calling was strong in that clan), but fell away when I realized much of what they believed didn't really match up with my personal beliefs. While I don't really identify with any one faith, I have the utmost respect for those who truly do in an un-hypocritical way.
Thanks for the genuine and heartfelt answers.
Thanks! I'll say what I have said to several folks on here who have experienced some form of manipulation in their faith lives--go try another church! There's power in spiritual community, even enough power to help walk you through the spiritual baggage you've accumulate. It has worked for me, at least.
Hello! Former United Methodist here. I grew up in a Methodist Church that was, to be frank, more of a country club than a place of spiritual growth. I married a woman who was raised in a church that split off of the Southern Baptists because they were just too gosh darn liberal. As you can imagine, our views of church are somewhat different.
We attend an emerging church now that is crazy out-there liberal. But listening to her stories and thinking back on my own experiences, I'm very thankful for my Methodist upbringing. I wasn't told I was evil and deserved Hell. I wasn't taught that women had no place in leadership. I wasn't expected to remain outside of society for fear of contaminating my soul. I may not agree with everything that was taught in Methodism, but I certainly didn't learn to fear religion. Thanks.
Oh, I'm supposed to have a question. Methodism seems to be somewhat unique in that the institution is somewhat more liberal than the majority of the members are as individuals. For example, abolition of the death penalty, participation in "evangelical left" organizations. Do you find this to be true in your day-to-day dealings with members of your congregation? And if so, how do you handle it?
Thanks for the message! You know, Methodists can be seen as bland, but one of our Bishops has described our theology as that of the "extreme center." I like that because it makes me feel less like theological melba toast.
I am currently in a unique context in that the city in which the church is located is fairly progressive. SO I don't think the teachings of the UMC are totally out of line with my context. generally, though, it is true that much of what is in the Book of Discipline is more progressive than the laity might otherwise be (though this is not the case on every issue). Some people get really mad about health care reform, for instance, and I've gotten heat for advocating for the repeal of the death penalty. The beauty of the UMC, though, is that though we have clear positions as stated by the general church, they aren't forced down the throats of our folks. As I heard a bishop say just yesterday, nobody believes everything in the Book of Discipline, at least not all at once.
My questions are based on my experiences, so forgive me if I am longwinded.
I grew up Methodist. I was kicked out of Sunday School because I was being bullied by the Sunday School teacher's son, and I told him to "go to hell" the millionth time he told me I was going to die alone with nothing but pie and cake to comfort me. (I was a chubby kid.) We pretty much stopped going to church altogether when I was kicked out of Sunday School. The question that goes with this is this: How much bullying do you think happens in the congregational setting? (between adults, kids, anyone really) and do you take steps to address it?
Belief background in a nutshell: I believe in a sentient creator-being (God) but I don't subscribe to any of the major religions because I believe they are mostly propaganda tools. I kinda have a sneaking suspicion that all religions are talking about the same being, but we see that being through different cultural lenses, but I have no way of knowing, hence being an Agnostic Theist. I don't really believe in the Bible because it has been twisted to suit political purposes throughout history. My question, honestly asked with the utmost sincerity and respect, is this: What is it that you believe makes Christianity the "right" religion? If you met me in real life, knowing my religious background, what would you say, if anything, to try to convince me that Christianity is the place to be?
Last question: In what ways, if any, do you believe Christianity needs to edit itself to keep up with the times and/or reach the younger generation?
I'm really sorry that this was your experience. Unfortunately, as I am sure you know, this kind of thing is not all that unusual. I was the chubby kid too (still am!) and experienced some of this bullying, including the few years my family and I went to church. In fact, the fact that I was bullied so much as a kid, I think, was a big part of my call to ministry. Jesus was rejected and sides with the rejected. I feel a special call to work with those--and share the love of God with those--who have similarly been rejected. So, yeah, of course bullying happens. There's no room for it in church. It has to stop. For what it is worth, the bullying I have seen the most in church is pointed towards the pastor. But that's not all of it. We're talking about important things in church, so people get understandably hot under the collar. Let me share just a couple of thoughts about the rest of what you've offered, and you tell me if you think I'm being fair. I gotta say, I have a little bit of a problem with the statement that "I don't really believe in the Bible because it has been twisted to suit political purposes throughout history." I get it, and it certainly has been twisted, but if you believed everything you heard about me, you'd think I was sick and twisted too! Just because it has been used as a political tool doesn't mean it isn't good. It just means it is powerful enough that people who want power latch onto it and twist it to suit their own ends. As far as converting you, the most useless conversations are the ones that are about trying to convert somebody. Believe me, I've been on the giving and receiving end of that one. So if I met you in real life, I wouldn't try to convince you with an argument. I'd invite you to my church, introduce you to some amazing people, have you come down to the soup kitchen and serve with my congregation, and walk alongside you in your journey of discovery. If that journey ends at the altar, great. If it ends somewhere else, well, I have to think that you've faithfully engaged, and that God can work through that too.
To your last question: I wonder what you mean by editing? The core of Christianity--that God loves everybody, even me, and that God draws all of us closer to one another and closer to God, even when it seems like the darkness is winning--that's timeless. But see some of my answers about gay marriage to get an idea of where I am coming from. THe more I look at my generation and the folks younger than me, the more I realize that we have a real chance to be a church that looks more like what CHrist envisioned for the church than the weak copy that Christendom has produced.
I really respect those responses. I guess I have a follow-up question. You mentioned that, indeed, the Bible has been a political tool, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. Your subsequent explanation, I think, is really very reasonable. I guess my follow-up question is this: If you (as in, the undirected plural, not you specifically) know that your Holy Book has been altered, how much stock do you place in it? How do you decide the place it has in your life as a thinking Christian, which you clearly are? How do you know which parts and teachings to let inform your life? And how does one know they personally aren't using it as a tool to suit their own agendas like so many do?
The two words that come to mind as I medidate on this excellent question are "hope" and "community." We have hope that the things we believe and the things we do are for some greater good. Not "hope" as in "I hope I'll get a bike for Christmas" but "hope" as in Martin Luther's quote that "everything that is done in the world is done by hope." Hope is not a feeling but a lived expression that points to something greater. So yeah, I hope I am not using it as a tool to suit my own agenda. I don't think I am, because if it were up to me, I'd be making more money and spending less time in committee meetings.
But community is the second answer, and that's because I think the way you know what is supposed to inform your life comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in Christian community. The Bible was written to be read in community, not by yourself. The writer Anne Lamott says you can be sure that you have made God in your image when it turns out that GOd hates all the same people that you do. The cure for this is community (I call it "church") where people come together, search out truth and read the Bible together, and discern as a group what God is calling them to do. Otherwise its just me and my own thoughts, and what a miserable existence that is!
I just wanted to thank you for doing this. Reddit can be a less than hospitable place to people of faith, but I think the open dialogue is helpful for everyone involved. I myself am an atheist, but I have tremendous respect for the compassion and generosity that believers regularly exhibit. And for you to be so open and inclusive towards non-believers, LGTB, etc., I think really speaks highly of the kind of faith you have.
Thanks. That really means a lot
I've got a question that has really stumped me. Can you lose faith after you accepted him? and can you accept the word on your deathbed after a life of crime and still get admitted?
You absolutely can lose your faith (This is the Wesleyan in me speaking. My Baptist sisters and brothers might not agree). And it is hard to say as far as "accepting the word on your deathbed" because following Jesus is about much more than simply saying some words out loud or making a simple decision free from consequences.
Good luck. You're going to need it.
That is all.
Thanks. I think it takes more than luck, but luck doesn't hurt.
All right. Meeting is over, kid is (finally) asleep, spouse is watching TV, and I've got a glass of petit sirah in hand. Let's go! Fire away.
What religion were your parents? Where were you raised?
Grew up a very conservative CHristian household in the southern US
Do you believe that an anthropomorphic divine being/individual created everything and everyone, has a special relationship with homo sapiens, condemns humanity to eternal suffering, recreated Himself in the form of a male human infant, and offers eternal life/bliss to everyone who believes that story? If not, what do you believe?
No. That's a pretty awful view of Christianity. I don't actually know of anybody who believes all that.
I'm under the impression that jesus had long hair. Also, he never answers my prayers. Is this cuz 'long hair don't care'?
It's because he only speaks pig latin
My question comes from my personal experience: My husband i and went back to my childhood hometown to be married in the church i grew up in by a pastor whom i did not grow up with. It was really awkward when it came to inviting him and his wife to the extra wedding activities but we did so out of politeness. I'm glad we did, but have always wondered what his viewpoint might be - (and his poor wife who has probably been drug to a million weddings!)
Do you enjoy performing wedding ceremonies all summer/(year) long? What do you think about people who get married by you in your church who are not regular attendees (for whatever reason) and what do you do when a bride and groom you don’t know very well invite you to the rehearsal dinner and/or reception? Do you go and enjoy a good meal at a happy event where you don’t know anyone or do you decline?
THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION! Thank you!
So here's a confession. I much prefer doing funerals to weddings. IN a funeral, people look to the clergyperson because they don't know what to do. In a wedding, I'm a prop.
That said, I don't mind it too much, except as it takes time away from family (though the extra money weddings usually bring in help soften the blow). I only do a certain number of weddings a year for this reason. I don't have a problem with marrying people who aren't church members, because (as with a funeral) in a wedding, you have a great opportunity to speak to a whole bunch of people who otherwise wouldn't be in a worship service. For this reason, I ONLY perform religious services. When people (even friends) request secular services, I decline. There are plenty of people who will perform that role. I am called to something else.
As far as rehearsal dinner/reception, I almost always decline the rehearsal dinner, and whether I appear at the reception depends on the nature of the reception (and whether I know anyone else). Having a wife who is also a minister gives me a convenient excuse. :)
What are your thoughts on ministers ordained by the Universal Life Church?
My thoughts have changed since my own actual ordination. I used to think it was silly (my dachshund is ordained by the ULC). Now, I think it is dangerous to religion, because it takes away from the important business of ordination. I don't want to get too hung up on ordination because I think everybody has the image of God within them, but I read a really interesting blog post last week from a bishop in the UMC who said basically "if you get ordained in the ULC, you're resigning your membership in the United Methodist Church." So yeah, I don't like it. I know most people do it to be silly or so that they can perform weddings, but my opinion is that you shouldn't have to get ordained online to perform a wedding. That's a civil matter, unless you care to make it a religions one. The most uncomfortable thing I do as a pastor--seriously--is sign marriage certificates, because in that moment I am acting as an agent of the state.
I've struggled a long time now with the divinity of every word in the Bible. I started out with the belief that every word in the Bible was put there by God (through humans or divine intervention). Now I see it as a 3000+ (including the old testament) game of telephone. I believe the message is there, however we need to find it in a sea of mistranslations, misinterpretations, and malicious lies added over thousands of years. This, however, brings about a troublesome dilemma. How can I quote one part of the Bible and disregard another? My interpretation of God (which seems to coincide with yours at least a little bit) is that God is love. This would seem to invalidate certain parts of the Bible. How do you deal with, what seems like, contradictions in the Bible?
TL;DR The messages in the Bible seem to be at odd with itself at some times. How do you rectify the sometime contradictory nature of the Bible.
Invalidate? No. But understanding the Bible in terms of its cultural context helps.
With regard to the Bible contradicting itself, I see that as better corroborating the message of Christ. If four people saw the same event and wrote of it exactly the same, I'd question whether there was a conspiracy. But if they disagreed about details, told different stories, etc, I would see more truth within it.
So yeah, TL;DR, the Bible isn't divine. It's inspired, but not inerrant.
Is it hard on you and your family to have to relocate every 4 years?
(I believe that's a rule in the Methodist denomination, right?)
Thankfully we don't move that often anymore, but every year the Bishop decides if the pastor stays or goes. I just moved this past June, and I will say, it was super stressful. But I am getting settled and I love the new congregation. Lots of work to do, but that's a blessing!
This comment might end up getting buried in the thread, but I'll give it a shot. I was raised going to a United Methodist Church, and I always got so discouraged when we would get used to one pastor, and they'd have to move to a different part of the state, as I know is the norm with our denomination. So, my question is, how often have you moved around, and how has it effected your family? Thanks!
Yeah, it is frustrating. Fortunately we are moving our pastors less frequently these days, which makes for less turnover and less stress. I still think the system of moving pastors ("itineration") is the most faithful way to do it, but it is hard. I just moved recently, and I can tell you, moving with a child into a new context and new church and new house was the most stressful thing I have ever done. Thank God for an understanding spouse, a welcoming congregation, and a cool-headed pastoral counselor!
Do you believe that humans (under God) have free will? Or do you believe that our lives are predetermined (ie destiny)? I've been reading about the dilemma of determinism a lot lately, so I'm interested in what you think. The religious side of it is basically that if god exists and is all knowing, then he knows all of our past/present/future. And if he knows our future, we are not free to change it (ergo, we are not free to make our own choices because our choice cannot conflict with gods understanding of our future).
We definitely have free will. Philosophically, my answer to determinism is chaos theory.
Don't know if you're still around, but I figure I'll ask anyhow.
What's the hardest part of your job? I read somewhere from a Catholic priest that his favorite and most difficult part of the profession was hearing confessions and giving counsel. Is your similar/different?
Being "on." I'm in introvert, and having to be on all the time wears. me. out. I'm happy to give counsel, and I count hearing about folks' lives as a great privilege. The other tough thing I would say is that finding time for everything is tough. I love the fact that my days unfold and are always different, but it makes planning tough.
You mentioned in one of your answers that your faith is intellectual, not emotional.
With that in mind; if incontrovertible evidence were presented to you that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, would that change or eliminate your belief in the Christian Bible?
It's not that its not emotional--its just also intellectual. If there were incontrovertible evidence that Jesus never existed, much of my faith would continue--my understanding of Christ is not simply based in history, but cosmic in nature. That said, this is really an impossible question to answer, because I am not really sure what I would do. Fortunately, I'm not expecting any proof of this kind any time soon. :)
If God had a modern profession what do you think it would be? Do you think that God as your church portrays him would have a different profession then another church's portrayal of him? Why? If you do feel that a different church's portrayal of him would have a different please point out the differences in doctrine that make it so, I know very little about how different churches differ in belief.
What a question. If God had a name, what would it be? And would you call it to his face?
Sorry, Joan Osborne attack.
I don't think God would have a profession. Our best understanding of who God is, in the person of Jesus, was a homeless, jobless vagabond. There is even the suggestion in the Bible that he was ugly. And this is our savior!
Wow aren't you exhausted yet?
Good for you for walking into the lion's den that is Reddit.
OK 1 question: How many of your colleagues are disillusioned with the bible, but hang around because it's the only job they know? (Obviously they aren't going to tell you they're disillusioned, but I'd say you'd have a decent suspicion).
Yes. But I am having fun with this.
THis is a good question, and I hear about it a lot. I will say, there is a high drop out rate in the clergy. But the idea that most of the clergy (or even much of the clergy) is disillusioned with the Bible is a myth that militant atheists have made up to make themselves feel better. Yes, it happens, but not often. There's a reason that "clergy" top the list of happiest professions.
So, to answer your question, I know a LOT of clergy. An while some of them drive me crazy, I don't think any of them are faking it.
Having worked at a Conference office, the most liberal one in North Centeral Jur., do you find that the pastors and leadership are just a might left of the usual parishoner? Having listened to many fights on leadership styles and ideals, it would seem that Pastors are not listening to the people they serve. And the people they serve are taking their money and leaving. I know our Conference has 1100 churchs and only 50 have over 100 people at Sunday service. Are community churches the wave of the future?
Totally depends on the context. And when a pastor is more progressive than the laity, I don't think that's about not listening--I think that's about the nature of the clergy. That said, ministry is contextual. I have to change my style (and perhaps even my beliefs) based upon where I serve.
Now, do we have a crisis of clergy leadership? Yep. You bet. And it is because we are hesitant to do the important thing in the interest of getting along with everybody. That's a recipe for disaster, or at least the death of the church as we know it.
With so many ideologies and sects within the judeo christian religion, how do you view the one that you associate with? Do you believe that it is an idea of right values/wrong values, or is it merely a personal preference of worship?
I know of some pastors, and even my world religions teacher who is ordained himself, that believe it is not really right or wrong which sect you "belong" to, but how you experience your own connection with god. Do you look at others and say, "your connection isnt as real as mine," or, "their idealogy is just as meaningful to mine simply because they have the faith."
This is a really tough question, and to be honest, the answer is lived out better than it is summed up. Language about what is "right" and "wrong" aren't all that helpful to me. Do I think Jesus has some incredible things to teach everybody? Yeah. As I evaluate the religious traditions with which I am familiar, do I most resonate and find the most meaning in following Christ? Again, yeah. But I fully acknowledge my own cultural biases color my religious decision-making. So when I look at others and other religious traditions, I try not to say "that's not as real as mine." I try to say, "What do I have to learn from this person? What do I have to teach? And where can we find common ground?"
What ministry within your local church would you most like to see grow?
(I know, It's like asking Which kid is your favorite)
I don't even have to think hard on this. Children's Ministry. I saw a quote last week about how the typical church spends 80 percent of income adults and 20 percent on kids, and how that is backwards because the ROI on kids is WAY higher. :) That's a bit cynical, maybe, but true. My real reasoning is that not only do kids bring families into the church, but as a society we don't value kids the way we ought to. We schlep them around or teach them that the most important thing in the world is to win the soccer game or whatever. The church has an important message to kids: you matter because you are a child of GOd. If all I did all day was teach that message to kids, I'd be doing a faithful job, I think.
What's your most enjoyed "chapter" (that's wrong, but you know what I mean) of the bible?
Do you get a bit exasperated with people twisting bible quotes to prove a point of theirs?
And of course I do. But then, I get exasperated at a lot.
I grew up in a Christian household and like you, my father is a pastor. He still has a congregation, but since college I have decided to make a conscious decision to become agnostic.
It sometimes scares me to know that I will die an unbeliever because of the chance that there really IS a God. If you were to share one piece of advice to help me reevaluate my spiritual life, what is one thing you could share or would recommend me investigate further?
Go to church. Seriously. There is truth and peace in Christian community. I'm not saying you need to go so you don't get sent to Hell or whatever. I'm saying you need to go because we need eachother and there is some church community out there that would be stronger with you present!
(Assuming Methodists practice confession)
Have you ever been tempted to go to the police or parents of someone based on a confession?
Have you ever given into such temptation?
Its not a formal rite or anything, but I am legally and ethically bound to practice confidentiality in almost all matters. So no, I've never been tempted.
Have you ever learned (really learned) about other religions? Evangelic, Hindu, Budish, Mormons, etc... If yes, what is your opinion.
Lots. I've studied pretty extensively, formally and otherwise. Interfaith work is at the heart of my call as a pastor. I believe strongly in my own tradition, but I do love to talk to those who believe differently.
What is your interpretation of Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Does this not indicate that there is no proof of God and there never will be? Does this mean that the whole point of having faith is that you believe in something that you cannot prove? If so, what do you say to people of "faith" that say they have proof of God (aside from their faith e.g. visions)?
This beautiful verse tells me that faith and hope are words much larger than words like "proof." I wouldn't say that not proving is the "point" of having faith, but it does mean that faith exists in a different sphere than science, for instance. But have I seen faith? Of course. I see it whenever people of faith get together to serve.
as to the vision question--I struggle with this one. I'm not big into ecstatic experiences, because they are by their nature things that happen to one person, and a big part of my theology is that no one person has a handle on the truth.
I went to a Christian University and became atheist while attending. While struggling with my faith I found Luke 19:27 to be a very confusing verse for me. I wasn't sure what the meaning of the verse was and was never quite satisfied with the responses I got from faculty. Would you be able to offer some insight into the verse? I know it's a parable, but would did Jesus mean by it? Thanks for your time!
Honestly, I have no idea. I kin of read it as a throw away line at the end of a parable--certainly not the point of the whole story.
More importantly than my granddad, how do you feel about the argument of consciousness as proof of god, or at least something more than biological life? I put it in the same category as the babel fish in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. If it is, in fact, proof of god, then we aren't relying on faith anymore and nix goes a founding principle of the christian church. But, in your opinion, is consciousness the result of a higher power directly or an indirect result of evolution?
So this is going to sound like a cop out but I have no idea. I do think that the Christian concept of the imago dei somehow mystically connects my own consciousness with the consciousness of God. But how this intersects with evolution, I just don't have any idea. Sorry. :/
I grew up in the Disciples of Christ church, not sure if you're aware who we are. I'm devout, I don't attend church anymore because I haven't found a church right for me. My question is, as a man of faith do you find it hard/disheartening to see young adults ages 18-35 distancing themselves from the church until they raise a family and come back because "I was raised in the church, and I think it would be good for my family." instead of coming back to become a more faithful Christian? Also thank you for this AMA.
You know, I am happy to welcome young adults for whatever reason. I wish the church were faithful enough to keep them around during those lost years, but that says more about the church than it does about young adults.
That's actually a very logical anwser. I know in the DoC churches they always seem to lean more toward "trying to figure out the young adult enigma" instead of looking internally.
Yeah, its not unique to DoC. Nobody knows what to do with young adults. I can say that since I am one. :)
What are your thoughts on non-denominational churches?
Don't think I can paint them with a broad brush. They have their place. Obviously I feel more at home in a denominational system.
very nice iama. revreddit - where did you study? things at infinity seem to fall apart so talking which came first or the laws of entropy are difficult. however, please explain why there is no mention of things like stonehedge or aliens or the pyramids. i'm being serious. thank you!
Went to a seminary affiliated with the UMC and a major research university.
The Bible is not a history of the world. It is contextual, set in a very particular set of time and places.
What is your definition of God?
I couldn't begin to answer this question beyond "love."
I went to a great UMC as a teenager. Taught Sunday school, vbs, the works... At one point I considered entering the clergy and was leaning in to a way to further this end. I loved it and had a balanced faith. Then they replaced our amazing pastor with one who was an ex-Baptist preacher (who was kicked out of the baptist church for having an affair with and later marrying a lady in his congregation). This guy totally destroyed the church after he made a pass at my mom and a few other ladies & after saying some rather concerning things about several children in the church family. My faith and fervor to serve was consequently destroyed.
I guess my question is: why would the UMC allow a man like that to pastor such an already well-established church?
I am really sorry to hear about this. No matter the reasons, it is devastating to see this sort of misconduct supported by the institutions that are supposed to protect us against that sort of stuff.
That said, no human system is perfect. It is a big denomination. I have actually been a proponent of higher standards for clergy leadership. The UMC has taken strides in this arena, making it REALLY hard to get ordained (believe me, I know).
Nice answers so far, you're the kind of Pastor I like, religious and caring but intellectually mature and open to other ideas as well. Christianity needs more leaders like yourself, but anyway...
What is your opinion on other religions such as Islam and Judaism (pick your poison), do you open up your Church to those religions and do inter denominational services? My own home town did just this with all of the local religions and we gained a ton of mutual respect for each other (long overdue for a redo in fact, but sadly I no longer live there).
I am all for interreligious activities--the church I serve has a yearly dinner with a local mosque! As for worship, I think that kind of thing is helpful to a point, but I also think it is really important to have a clear understanding of your own tradition before you go out and engage others.
Are you a better rapper than pastor troy?
What do you think about super churches that seem to be for profit? Do you think they should be taxed like the rest of us?
Drive me crazy. Prosperity Gospel is a perversion of the message of Jesus, who was way more interested in us selling everything we own than in being blessed financially, whatever that means (I happened to believe that Biggie was right when he said mo money mo problems).
But how do you decide which theology is correct and which is not, in the eyes of the law? That's a tougher question.
Personally when a church gets to a certain size. Lets say over 500 members. There should be a tax.
I don't think its that easy. My current church doesn't have that many members, but my former one did, and we fed hundreds of thousands of people, reached out in many many ways. I don't know that you can put a number on it.
Who had the biggest influence on your faith?
Howard Thurman, who died before I was born, so maybe that's a weird answer. But once I read his book Jesus and the Disinherited, I knew that so much of what I thought I knew about faith was pointing in the wrong direction.
Is there a god?
I mean, I am pretty sure about this.
So why Christianity, as opposed to any of the other religions out there? I ask because you seem like a thinking man, and I'm just curious what lead you to Jesus's teachings :)
The short answer is that I was more familiar with Jesus's teachings than any other, so it was a natural starting point. And while I don't want to pit religions against one another, the more I read of other religions and the more I experienced the people who follow Christ, the more I knew it was the place to which God was calling me. Again, many of my own cultural biases and the religious preferences of my family of origin color my decision. But I don't want it to sound like I just fell into this. I didn't grow up in the church. I could make a lot more money doing something else. I discovered in the teachings of Christ--mostly as they are lived, rather than simply how they are arranged on the page--a vision for what humanity could be, and a real expression of God's love for all people.
If anybody wants to convert to Christianity--say from Islam. How would tha process work and how long would it usually take? Can you just walk into any church and ask from the pastor of that church that you're looking to convert? Also do you get a certificate certifying the details about your conversion? Thank you very much!
It depends on who you talk to, but I will tell you how it works in my church. You give me a call, and we talk about what it means to follow Jesus through the United Methodist Church, and then the following Sunday you answer the questions that the UMC uses in its ritual, including your promise to follow Christ and fight evil and injustice in its many forms, and you are baptized into the family of God. You won't get a certificate detailing your conversion, persay, but you probably will get a certificate of baptism, which is just about the same thing.
Is there a difference between a United Methodist Church and a Presbyterian Church?
Do you think Buddhism and Christianity can co-exist?
There is. And while this is VERY simplified, The UNited Methodist Church is centered around the teachings of John Wesley (among others), the Presbyterian Church is centered around the teachings of John Calvin (among others). Presbyterians tend to place more of an emphasis upon the will of God than Methodists do, but you'll find that we agree more than we disagree. And yeah, I know some people who consider themselves both. I'm pretty fascinated by Buddhist thought, though I don't go so far as to believe that life is suffering nor that we ought to allow ourselves to slough off all reality. (I am not a Buddhist so I hope I haven't offended those of you who are with my lay reading of your tradition!)
I've been doing some family history research lately and noticed that many of my paternal ancestors were Methodists. I read up on how Methodism is different than other groups, but I'd like to hear what being a Methodist means to you and how it affects your goals and perspectives. Thanks!
It means that there is truth bigger than my own understaning, that I am called to be faithful in my own context. It means that religion is not about a list of a hundred things you should do or a thousand points of doctrine but a lived expression of what it means to do my best to follow Jesus. It means that I should pray, but that I should also serve. It means that my heart-faith and my head-faith need eachother.
Have you read my granddad Richard Soulen's books? Hes fairly prominent in Methodist theology, and so is my uncle Kendall Soulen.
Only in excerpts as it relates to Biblical criticism and exegesis. My memory is that he's pretty brilliant!
Did Christ die for everyone, or just the elect? If he died for everyone, does that mean everyone goes to Heaven? If he died for everyone, but not everyone receives salvation, did he die in vain?
Christ died because the authorities killed him. His Resurrection was for everybody, end of story.
Christ died because the authorities killed him.
Then why did Christ die? If he truly is God,, then surely he could have stopped it if he wanted to.
Yeah, he could have. But he didn't, which is a significant piece of CHristian doctrine.
John 10:18 disagrees with that.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
And let's not also forget 1 Corinthians 15:3
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
The John verse doesn't disprove my argument. The Corinthians verse demonstrates Paul's understanding of the atonement--Christ as a sacrificial offering. Paul said some other crazy stuff too
how profitable is that business ??how can i gain money being a pastor?
HA! Not very.
I feel that Luke 19:27 is strongly opposed to the forgiving, loving Christ I was taught my whole life. What are your thoughts on this?
GOod question. IN that verse, Jesus is telling a parable. He quotes a nobleman in that verse. It fits the context of the story and, in my mind, isn't the point of the teaching. Of course, there are plenty of difficult things in scripture. You've got to read the Bible in conversation with itself.
Thank you for doing this AMA! A few questions for you if you don't mind. As a hobby I study various world religions quite frequently just to compare and contrast the differences; however I grew up in a very Christian household. It wasn't until I started really digging into the actual history of Christianity that I began to lose my faith in it. Particularly in reference to the Councils of Nicea and Trent. So my first question would be why exactly isn't it a more widely known fact among Christians in general that the divinity of Christ was actually put to a vote to become cannon, and the divine trinity as well didn't exist before this moment in time as well.
My second question is more of a choice of actual religion question. I've been truly fortunate in my many years in the military to travel the world and see so many other cultures, and it comes as no surprise that most people choose the "religion of their fathers" I however; notice that especially in the states people are very quick to say that Christianity is the one true path to God and everyone else is wrong, and must convert or will burn in hell. So the question is how exactly in your opinion will this be dealt with as well as why would God create so much division in religions if he would want everyone to be happy and there be no strife?
Why don't more Christians know it? Most of today's churchgoing folks don't know basic Bible stories, let alone the history of the canon. THat's not something we should blame the laity for; it is the clergy's fault. Maybe we're scared folks will question. As for me, I don't have a problem with the idea that God worked through a council. It makes me feel better about all the committee meetings I Have to attend!
To your second question: God didn't create division in religion; that happened when we stopped loving eachother. The word we often use for this in the church is "sin."
Assuming you don't believe (or approve of) everything in the bible, how do you justify to yourself that it is ok to pick and choose which parts of the bible are relevant and which parts are outdated, or no longer relevant? Basically, why is it ok to ignore the "bad" parts of the bible? I can give examples of "bad" parts if needed.
You don't need to give examples. I know where they are. One of my favorite parts of United Methodism is the idea of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. We understand truth in four ways: scripture (which is primary), tradition, reason, and experience. I understand it as having three lenses through which we understand scripture. So on an issue like slavery, we bring our own experiences and reason to the table. The writers of scripture didn't have it all together, of course, and scripture was written in a cultural context.
Thanks for the response, i have a followup for you: If scripture is not absolute, and our opinion on various parts continues to change, then what is the point of following Scripture, when what we follow will likely change?
If we can use reason and experience to justify which parts of scripture to follow, that would mean scripture is not absolute (and in my opinion should not be the primary way to truth).
"Absolute" and "primary" are two different things, in my mind. It is not just that our opinions about some parts change--it is that scripture disagrees with itself in some places! The Bible, after all, is not so much one book as a library of books. The 4 Gospels tell the same story, but in different ways and in a different order. The fact that we're still using this book/these books DESPITE their small little arguments tells me they are pointing to something greater. After all, if you and I see the same robbery, we're going to tell it a little differently. If we tell it exactly the same way, the police are going to wonder if we've coordinated our stories because we were involved. :)
I always thought it would be cool to be a member of the clergy. How long/expensive is seminary? Do you enjoy your job? And do you think churches should be taxed?
Being a member of the clergy is really fun. I mean, not all the time, and the lows are pretty low, but most days I think this is the most important thing in the whole world. I never know what my day is going to be like. And being with people in the highs and lows of their own lives is an incredible honor. There is a reason that clergy is typically the job associated with the most happiness. Seminary takes three years full time for an MDiv (I always think its funny that I supposedly have mastered the divine). It can be expensive but I got a full ride. I struggle on the taxation issue. Clergy taxes are themselves insane--I am self employed on some things but not on others. Churches do a lot of good with the money they are given via tax exempt donations. But I understand the issues some folks have with the arrangement.
Do you think you need Jesus or the Bible to be a good person? Don't you think that with other education you will probably have ended being a good person but maybe not related to religion?
What influence do you think religion should have in children?
Do you respect the people that think religion should be kept away from children until they become of age (at least 16-18)?
Of course you don't need Jesus to be a good person. But the purpose of religion isn't to be a good person. It is to be faithful, which is different.
As to children, I am a big fan of teaching kids Bible stories early in their lives. Believe me, teaching kids has not kept folks from questioning their faith (cf Reddit).
What would you say is the number one reason for your faith in a god, and what led you to the ministry? Thanks for doing this!!
The most incredible things I have seen human beings do have always come from some place of religious belief. That's what piqued my interest. And as I explored the faith and read about the ways in which Jesus wants us to live, I realized that this stuff is not a joke. It's real. If we follow it, we find ourselves experiencing our own true natures. And when death comes, it is not the end, because the love we have experienced in life has no end.
The question about what led me to ministry is more complicated. It involves wrestling with these questions and realizing that I had the gifts and graces to be ordained clergy. I also felt it important that the clergy not be left to the unthinking televagelist types we see so often. The religion they talk about is not my religion. Thanks for the question!
Hi - I think you (kinda) passed over this - but what is your belief in the teachings/writings of the bible?
How old do you think the Earth is? Not scientifically - just more like million +, or more like couple thousand?
Depending on the answer to #1, what's your take on dinosaurs. If you don't believe the million + and dinosaurs, what do you think is happening with all those fossils everywhere?
Do you believe (regardless of the age of the world), that we started with one man and one woman?
Do you believe that God gave the world a huge bath, and that some guy in a tub was able to fit all the critters inside it and repopulate the world as we know it?
How's your day so far? How's the weather outside? :)
And please answer all questions - no skipping straight to #5! :)
Ha! Ok. 1. Million plus. Billions and billions. Older than Hugh Hefner, even. 2. Love dinosaurs. Glad they're extinct. Seem dangerous. 3. I started to write "no" but I guess, depending on your definition of when humans evolved into their current form, you could say so. I think the spirit of your question is, do I believe in evolution that moved from single-cell organisms up until now. Yes, I do. 4. No. That's silly. It's an ancient story probably based upon a flood in the Tigris-Euphrates river valley. 5. It is ok. The kid was up all night sick so I am pretty wiped, and I did something I never do in that I forgot a lunch meeting I was supposed to have today with the head of our pastor-parish relations committee. She called after waiting for me for a half hour. SO I was pretty mortified. I am trying to give myself some grace here and remember that I'm allowed to screw up. ANd the weather is nice, if a little brisk.
I was raised in the UMC and while I was never evangelical I had a solid faith. Over the past few years, it has quietly faded out. No one earth-shattering moment, it's just like the dawning realization I had as a kid that Santa Claus was not a real entity but a "spirit" of giving and caring for children. Intellectually I am fully atheist/agnostic but emotionally I miss the feeling of warmth and reassurance. Thoughts?
Perhaps there is something divine in that feeling of warmth and reassurance. In fact, it is my experience that God always goes in front of us, pulling us towards God and towards one another. IN my tradition we call that prevenient grace. Don't ignore the fact that you miss that feeling. Perhaps there is truth within it!
How do you know all other religions are wrong and you are right?
Marriage is not a sacrament in the UMC, so why does the church care if homosexuals marry? Also, as a lay person in the UMC, what can I do to hasten the inevitable reversal of the church's stance in this area?
The short answer is that I think the church cares because it is fascinated by sex.
Longer answer is that marriage is a bedrock institution, so changing it understandably makes some people nervous. I don't think the opposite sex piece is the most important one in a marriage relationship, but I understand the concern.
As far as the reversal of the church's stance, there are two answers here too. The first is that this has to happen at the general church level. We vote on this every four years at general conference. I think that we will see the church trend more conservative until we stop relying upon delegates in Africa to decide our theology for us. But you can push the clergy you know. And you can go to annual conference and vote for progressive laity.
I am an anti-theist agnostic atheist and I don't find the question "How can you look yourself in the mirror in the morning, considering that you mislead people every day?" at all boring so please, do answer it. :)
One of my biggest concerns about religion is how it is being tied into politics by the far right. Methodists generally are not doing this. What do you think of religion in politics?
George W Bush is a Methodist. So is Hillary Clinton. So do with that what you will.
I heard a quote somewhere about mixing religion and politics being like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn't much hurt the manure, but . . .
It isn't that easy of course. I'm generally a liberal person whose politics are informed by the fact that I think Jesus said we ought to take care of everybody, so when issues of healthcare come up, I am in favor of universal coverage: single-payer, in fact. This is different, I think, than the quest to teach Bible in the public schools or the fight over gay marriage. (The church has responsibility for teaching Bible and holding marriage sacred). The place where I have the most sympathy for the religious right is over the issue of abortion. Their tactics are often horrendous, but I can at least understand their argument because it looks a lot like my argument for health care. I'm pro-choice, but I understand how those who oppose abortion on religious grounds come to their public policy preference.
Single payer could be a far superior system and I am disappointed that we cannot seem to get this done in the US. Many countries do a much better job than we do when it comes to basic healthcare. It is kinda nice to find common ground on something, regardless of why we agree.
As for abortion, we agree on pro choice but I have zero respect for the right's arguments on the matter. The tactics they use are atrocious. Thanks for your answers !
Yeah, the tactics are frequently atrocious, but I guess my deal is that I know of plenty of folks who oppose abortion on religious grounds who are really humble and faithful about it. And since religious groundings inform my opinion on healthcare, for instance, I'm saying I get where they are coming from is all. Thanks for your questions!
I am in favor of universal coverage: single-payer, in fact. This is different, I think, than the quest to teach Bible in the public schools or the fight over gay marriage.
What do you see as the difference?
My religion teaches me that all people are fundamentally worthwhile and should be cared for. Government is how we've decided to care for folks, and it ought to do so! It is the church's responsibility to teach the Bible and preserve the sanctity of marriage (whatever that means).
You sound very liberal and weak as a christian, your ground could easily be shaken, or maybe you are just modern and soft with your approach, so prove to us you are legit, and admit homosexuality is a SIN, and thats one of the major reasons GOD destroyed Sodom...
Not gonna bite. Not that I have anything against biting. The fact that I am a weak Christian and soft in my approach means that I'm in favor of a little playful biting, you understand.
It is also important to note that Universal Healthcare distributed by the government and provided by fair taxation is an established social principle of the UMC.
Yes! Thanks for the reminder! Nancy Pelosi got a bunch of us pastors in trouble when she thanked the UMC for our support of the ACA. Our laity tends to be more conservative than our clergy, so we had some folks who were upset. So be it. As I say frequently, I am open to the idea that it is not the government's responsibility to provide healthcare. But if it is not the government's responsibility, that means it is the church's responsibility, and we don't seem all that interested in dealing with the issue.
I am in favor of universal coverage: single-payer, in fact.
Any particular reason for this?
Earlier you wouldn't comment on the age of the earth because "you're not a scientist"
Do you have any experience in the medical insurance field? Or is that just... your belief?
I do actually have a little experience in the medical insurance field, having worked in a doctor's office dealing with insurance companies. That said, when I said I wasn't going to comment on the age of the earth because I am not a scientist, I didn't mean to skirt the question. I meant that I trust the scientists. So I do have a strong belief about the age of the earth: it is that science has the answer to that question and that religion does not.
Yeah, sorry about that.
Thanks for the upvotes, yall. I guess some folks automatically downvote religious stuff. At least I am beating Ann Coulter? Yikes. :)
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