In light of recent conversations I have had, I want to take the time to talk about judgment. Many people will express that the judgment that God has on us is in relation to our sins. In Christian tradition, there is a common theme between good and evil, Satan and God, and heaven and hell. There are many people who have questions about this topic and many people who struggle with these ideas. I want to take you through something that inspired me to change my idea of who God is and what the character of God expresses.
While I was in my second year of college, I had to read a book for my practicum. For those of you who don’t know me, I went to college to receive a bachelors degree in ministerial leadership. Practicum was a time where I learned practical skills and gained experience so that one day I could become a pastor. I shadowed under a pastor for three years and gained experience that put me in the question to be hired by a church.
The book that I read was “The Future of Faith” by Harvey Cox. Professor Cox was the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard School of Divinity. In his book, Cox explored a lot of progressive ideas. He does this through a focus on exploring the history of Christianity, exploring the current problems within the church today. It is quite offensive for the average southern church goer. In fact, it’s almost as offensive as the way Jesus was to the religious people of his time.
Cox states, “Fundamentalism is the current Protestant variant of the toxin of creed making that entered the bloodstream of Christianity early in its history. Fundamentalists collapse faith into belief. They define themselves by their unyielding insistence that faith consists in believing in certain “fundamentals.” This, together with being “saved” or “born again” and telling others about one’s beliefs, which is called “witnessing,” making someone a “real Christian.” Of course, many fundamentalists are also people of genuine faith who trust God as they understand him and try to love their neighbors. And many people in a variety of spiritual paths experience a formative awakening that can change the way they live, though they might not call it rebirth. But the fundamentalist obsession with correct beliefs often makes faith, in its biblical sense, more elusive. It replaces faith as a primary life orientation with a stalwart insistence on holding to certain prescribed doctrinal ideas, and this in turn often promotes a kind of taunt defensiveness and spiritual pride that are not in keeping with the love ethic of Jesus.” (139)
Earlier to that paragraph, Cox gives another examination of Christian Fundamentalist saying, “The main feature of Protestant fundamentalism is its literalism”. (75)
For those of you who are still reading and have decided to not label me as a heretic, I want to swap the page for a second. This introduction is a good primer for our topic today. I want to flip to a different idea and then bring us back into the ideas of Harvey Cox. Let me start by asking you a question and then deconstructing it. If there are people in this world who do not follow the Christian-Judeo God, are they “saved”? To further this question, if there are an estimated 3,155,824,000 individuals who have never heard the Gospel, are they going to burn in hell for not having been in contact with the Christian message? One last question: what do you think fundamentalist think?
To start off, the power of the Christ is undermined if you take such a literal meaning to the words of the bible. The bible isn’t a set of rules or truths. The Bible is a story of how mankind has struggled to find God and how humanity and the life through the universe have come to unfold that story. When I say that, I don’t mean aliens. Though, if there were aliens, that would definitely shock the ideas of Christian Fundamentalists. To say that these unreached people groups will burn in hell for their ignorance makes anyone who believes it to be ignorant. Jesus taught in stories. His stories were metaphorical and definitely prophetic and inspired by love. No matter what religion you are or what beliefs you fall under, please take these words with an open mind. To take things in the bible literally creates separation, insecurities, and war between those that Jesus wanted to connect. God’s judgment is love. God loves the stars, planets, people, animals, plants, and everything that surrounds this cosmic ecosystem of life. I’m not sure if there is an afterlife, but if there is, I don’t think that a loving God would send billions of people to suffer through flames for all of eternity. This undermines the power of the cross.
I would like to share one more story. In fact, this story is what motivated me to write this article.
I have a friend who is very interesting. He’s brilliant and has had ups and downs in life. I love him dearly. Through the years, I have tried to stay connected to him. In fact, our relationship goes back four years ago in High School. For confidential purposes, his name is going to be Derick. Derick was raised in the church. He’s spent his life questioning who God is. He’s actually quite inspirational and makes me think deeply about a lot of things in life. Derick is the product of a lost man who was raised in fundamentalism. I don’t mean lost as in he denies Christ as the fundamentalist would say. In fact, he loves God dearly. Derick is just confused. Fundamentalism has caused him to have a sort of trauma. He recently admitted to me that he has been avoiding me because he has been smoking marijuana. He was nervous that I would judge him. In fact, I don’t judge him at all. Not in the way that he is thinking. Love is a sort of judgment that I really want Derick as well as the people who read this to understand. I don’t think that what he is doing is wrong or sinful in any way. Now, I don’t think it’s smart, but it’s his life. Paul says in Romans 14 that every person has different convictions. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have morals, but I’m asking everyone to reflect why they naturally point fingers. If Jesus were here today, he would lock the doors to the churches and tell us how wrong we are living. He would tell us how we have turned what is holy into a marketplace of selling salvation. Christ is in everything and is present at all times. I’m thankful for people like Derick who teach me to love and to not be so narrow-minded like the Pharisees were.
Cox, Harvey Gallagher. The Future of Faith. New York: HarperOne, 2010. Print.
Liu, Joseph. “The Global Religious Landscape.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. N.p., 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 23 June 2017.
Project, Joshua. “Global Statistics.” Global Statistics :: Joshua Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 June 2017.