Tag-Archive for » christian «

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 | Author:

This is not an opinion on the passing of the marriage equality law.

This is not an opinion on homosexuality.

This is an opinion about people who call themselves christians. And the heavy weight that entails.

 

In my blog post a few weeks back, I wrote, “even with all my qualms, and doubts, and wounds from the church, I would still call myself a christian.”

It physically made my chest cavity hurt to write that sentence. Because as I have found myself on the outskirts of the church — sometimes by my own choosing, sometimes not — I have begun to see more clearly what the church looks like to the rest of the world. What christians look like to the rest of the world. And I have found myself relating more to those on the outside of the church — especially those who used to belong to the church and got hurt or disillusioned and left — than I relate to those inside.

The christianese language sounds foreign and fake to me though it once spilled out of my mouth with fluidity.

Similarly the ways the church talks about and approaches problems and hardships in life feels not just unnatural, but fake as well. Though I have lost touch with the church culture, I have not lost touch with the personality of God and his son. And I’m seeing more and more and more how much of a disparity there is between mainstream American christian and church culture and the personality of God.

And then there’s this: there’s a commandment — one of those ten big rules to live by in the Christian and Jewish life — You shall not use the name of the Lord in vain.

I grew up with that being explained as why we don’t say “Oh my God” or “Jesus Christ” as an exclamation.

For a long time I would notice each and every time someone around me said either of those. I didn’t mind it if they weren’t a christian, because I understood that those that do not follow a belief system should not be held up to the specific standards of said belief system.  But I still noticed it.

Then, a few years back, I was working for a church in San Diego in youth ministry and I came upon this study about the 10 commandments. When it came to the “do not take the name of the Lord in vain” command, I was blown away by the authors’ interpretation.

He said that the commandment is about misrepresenting God, not saying “Oh my God.”

And what had once been the most trivial of the commandments became one of, if not the most important commandment to me.

When you do things in the name of God that have no business with God, you are breaking this command.  When you spread hate in God’s name, you are misrepresenting the character and name of God. When you are vicious to the world that God so loves, you are dragging his name through the mud. When apartheids and slavery and crusades and protests at funerals and wishing ill on a people group and refusing to acknowledge someone’s humanity and refusing to forgive and standing up for a cause that is against people not for people all take place in the name of God — that name is sullied — for some people beyond repair.

The world is full of people who think they have been hurt by God, simply because the “people of God” hurt them using His name.

And this fills my throat with hot bile and my eyes with hot tears. Because that is not who God is. And if you are in the business of misrepresenting God to the world, you are not an agent of God.  You are worse than the merchants at the temple gates charging too much for sacrificial animals — the people whose actions Jesus so detested that he threw their tables and scattered their goods. The peaceful Jesus, the Son of Peace, is also a son of Justice, and when people’s actions under the guise of being “from God” keep people away from God, he will not stand for it. He will make a scene. Because as far as I can tell, there is nothing that angers God more than people hurting people and doing it in His name.

The repercussions are biblically harsh for people who lead others away from God, either by misinformation (i.e. the Prosperity gospel which doesn’t pan out anywhere where pain or hardship spring up) or by harm (like hateful words or actions).

It pained me to say I was a christian — which pained me then further to have that realization — because one, I want to make severely sure that if I call myself by the name of God that I am not misrepresenting Him. And two, because the label “christian” is so saturated by those who misrepresent the God who by his own definition is Love.

I don’t have an ending to this. It’s something I needed to air and get off my chest and challenge you with as I am challenged by it as well. The next time you speak or act in God’s name, please take into consideration that this is a huge command. If you have an opinion that you are not sure aligns with God’s, call it your own, not a “christian opinion.” It’s time we all stopped using God’s word, God’s will, and God’s name as an umbrella excuse to act and spout what we will without room for challenge.

We shall not misrepresent God. We shall not hate or harm in the name of God. We shall not keep people away from God.

I’m practicing this in my own life as well. It takes some guts to say what I think, not what I think God says. My hope is that what I think will align with God thinks often, but if it doesn’t, I’ve not marred His name or his reputation in the process. It’s up to me to own my own thoughts and actions. The higher power I believe in is not an excuse for any of my attitudes or behaviors. And I will not label them as such. God is love. If I am less than that, it is because of me, not Him.

To those who have been hurt by myself or another “christian” misrepresenting God: I’m so, so sorry.

To those that are gay, black, female, poor, of a different religion, or anyone who the church (including me) has outcast, ignored, or persecuted — I am sorry. My heart is changing. I am praying for the heart of the church to change. But I am certain that the heart of God has not changed — He loves you. I’m sorry if you’ve been fed a message that is different than that. It’s a lie.

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you. And He tells us, the hypocritical christians, to love you and one another as well. Not only in our hearts, but in our actions, in our lives.


 

If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

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Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon        storyofjoblog@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 07th, 2015 | Author:

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I met him once, briefly.

“Sit, with the opportunity to listen to one of the ‘saints in the land’ speak… this morning,” were the chaplain’s closing remarks of introduction before Brennan took the stage.

“In the words of Francis of Assisi as he met brother Dominique on the road to Umbria: ‘Hi,'” he began in a slow, measured voice with a grin.

The crowd exhaled in full laughter, their air having been held in their lungs a little too seriously during the astounding and gracious introduction about him was given.

Brennan Manning, christian author and speaker, was in his 70’s and his light blue eyes had already gone blind. His friend and traveling companion had to lead him up the carpeted stairs of the stage to the podium from which he would address our sleepy-eyed college-student selves. It was a Wednesday in early January, 2010.

It was the first chapel session that I had attended at my christian college since being back from my year studying abroad. I didn’t know that Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel and grace-touter extraordinaire was to be the speaker.

But he was. As soon as our Chaplain began introducing him, my heart and ears opened.

I’d first encountered Brennan’s name and face when I was about 11 or 12 years old.

I was at the Christian book store with my mom, and a book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, caught my eye as it stared up at me from a “15% off” table in the center aisle. I picked up the book, and flipped it over to find a picture of Brennan looking back at me. He had wrinkled skin and white hair, and the short bio said that he lived in New Orleans.

I was impressed that a straight-laced looking, older Christian author lived in a place I only knew of for it’s debauchery on Mardi Gras.

When I first heard the news of Hurricane Katrina hitting the city in August 2005, I immediately thought of him and prayed for him and any family he may have there. I had not thought of him or his book at all since seeing that copy of the book several years before, but somehow, the information had stuck: There was a ragamuffin christian who lived in New Orleans. May God have mercy.

When I was in my early college years, I had been fully entrapped in the cycle of abuse and lies that my story unfortunately holds. Dying on the inside, feeling like I was never, never good enough to get out of the cycle, I found Brennan’s Ragamuffin Gospel again, and read it. Consumed it. I didn’t understand grace all of the way yet, but I knew, I knew I needed it.

And as I sat in the auditorium of my christian college, and as Brennan began to speak his famous message of grace, I was ready. I was familiar with grace now. I had realized that the grace of God on the hurting, the dirty, the trapped, the grieving, the sinning, the I-want-to-be-different-than-I’m-able-to-be’s was the only thing keeping me afloat. And Brennan’s words drenched me that morning.

I went up to him afterward, tears streaming down my face and urgency in my shaking voice as I spoke to him.

I don’t even know what I said to him, aside from “thank you, thank you so much for your message of grace today and in life.”

But I do remember that as he faced me, he took both of my arms, and clasped them right about at the elbow, holding our forearms parallel to one another’s as we spoke. He looked me in the eyes, though he could not see and his blue eyes were cloudy. They began to fill with tears in our short interaction. He thanked me, I thanked him, and we parted ways.

I didn’t think of Brennan the person (though I did use his books often) much for the next few years, until almost exactly 3 years later, when my life imploded, and the shrapnel of shame and pain went flying, lodging into anyone nearby.

About a week into the aftermath of that time in my life, in hours of searching through the book store for something to distract or help, I found it: Brennan’s memoir. It hadn’t been finished yet at the point I had met him, but I knew, this would be the book of the season.

The book is titled: All is Grace.

The reason Brennan knew grace so intimately is that he was such a “ragamuffin” (of his own naming). Ragamuffin meaning, one whose only prayer could be “God grant mercy on my soul, a sinner.”

In the beginning of the book, he writes this: “Warning: Mine has been anything but a straight shot, more like a crooked path filled with thorns and crows and vodka. Prone to wander? You bet. I’ve been a priest, then an ex-priest. Husband, then ex-husband. Amazed crowds one night and lied to friends the next. Drunk for years, sober for a reason, then drunk again. I’ve been John the beloved, Peter the coward, and Thomas the doubter all before the waitress brought the check.”

In his ruthless honesty about pain, about grief, about short-comings and sins, and shameful things, Brennan walked me through his life, and I found light in the broken places.

In a poem by  Leonard Cohen, it’s written: “There is a crack in everything. // That’s how the light gets in.” That’s what I found in those pages — a testament that God loved my cracked self, and that he could pour light and grace into me, and hopefully, maybe one day, out of me as well.

Brennan’s honesty of his story was a tiny shimmer of light in a very dark season.  I took my time over several months to read through the book. But I was finally finishing it on my way back from a trip to Israel in April 2013 when I heard the news — Brennan had passed away. I sat on the plane and cried a few silent tears. Tears for a man who was broken, who failed often, and who God used in huge ways to tell the world about the message of grace and love.

To this day, Brennan is one of the few Christian leaders who I would wholeheartedly recommend because of his ruthless honesty about who he has been, who God is, and that when you match those two up, the only conclusion is this: All is Grace.

——- ——— ——-

There’s a movie that’s about to be made about Brennan and his life which I’m really excited to recommend. It’s called “Brennan.” You can keep your eyes out for it to watch it, but more than that, there’s the unique opportunity to help it get created.

The movie is being made by the same folks that created the film “Ragamuffin” a couple years ago about Rich Mullins’ life (which was, obviously, one of the lives touched by Brennan Manning’s message of grace for the outcasts of the world). If you know me, you know I sort of despise christian movies, but I’m really, really, really looking forward to this one. They will execute it well, and it’s a story well-worth telling and knowing.

 ——- ——— ——-

Lastly, this is Brennan’s “A Word Before” note at the beginning of his memoir:

All Is Grace was written in a certain frame of mind — that of a ragamuffin.

Therefore,

This book is by the one who thought he’d

be farther along by now, but he’s not.

It is by the inmate who promised the parole

board he’d be good, but he wasn’t.

It is by the dim-eyed who showed the path

to others but kept losing his way.

It is by the wet-brained who believed if a

little wine is good for the stomach,

then a lot is great.

It is by the liar, tramp, and thief; otherwise

known as the priest, speaker, and author.

It is by the disciple whose cheese slid

off his cracker so many times

he said “to hell with cheese ’n’ crackers.”

It is by the young at heart but old

of bone who is led these

days in a way he’d rather not go.

But,

This book is also for the gentle ones

who’ve lived among wolves.

It is for those who’ve broken free of collar

to romp in fields of love and marriage and divorce.

It is for those who mourn, who’ve been

 mourning most of their lives,

yet they hang on to shall be comforted.

It is for those who’ve dreamed of entertaining angels

but found instead a few friends of great price.

It is for the younger and elder prodigals

who’ve come to their senses

again, and again, and again, and again.

It is for those who strain at pious piffle

because they’ve been swallowed by Mercy itself.

This book is for myself and those who have been around

the block enough times that we dare to whisper

the ragamuffin’s rumor —

all is grace.


If you’d like to support the Story Project (to cover travel expenses, costs of Stories for those who can’t afford it, etc.) you can do so below or contact me at storyofjoblog@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check. Thank you for your support! 

 To Donate to Stories By Jo: The Story Project click below


Jo O’Hanlon is an adventurer and storyteller. She tries to be honest about the ugly and hard parts of life, and the beautiful parts too. This blog is one of the places she shares her thoughts and stories.

Other places are

instagram: @jrolicious         twitter: @jrohanlon

storyofjoblog@gmail.com