Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I, a Bible loving, gospel embracing, Paul-enamored lefty progressive Christian

I, a Bible loving, gospel embracing, Paul-enamored lefty progressive Christian

So lately I’ve been getting a few emails from new readers asking about my personal beliefs and/or theology—or just about me generally, especially relative to Christianity. I appreciate those queries, and thought I’d take a moment to address the main thrusts of them.
I was not a Christian, at all, until I was thirty-eight years old, when I suddenly and out of nowhere had the conversion experience that—as natural and healthy as of course I’ve always understood it to be—continues to pretty wholly freak me out. You can read a bit about my conversion experience in I, a Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Convert.
One of the first things I understood about being a Christian—and I mean, one of the things I understood within moments of my Big Moment—was that it was not necessary for me to try to convert other people to Christianity: that, in fact, the whole “We must evangelize!” thing is (or certainly is today) bullshit. Making a point of converting others is a power play that has no more to do with actually being a Christian than arm-wrestling has to do with being a ballerina. I knew instantly that (as I learned to understand it later) seeking to fulfill the Great Commission (“Go and turn other people into Christians!”) almost always means violating the second part of the Great Commandment (“Love your neighbor as yourself”). So one of the first things I did as a Christian was write a book about the whole relationship between Christians and Non-Christians. That’s my book “I’m OK—You’re Not”: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop.
The other thing that upon my conversion I was much chagrined to discover was that just because one is a Christian doesn’t mean that one is a moron incapable of rational thought. That realization moved me to write “Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do the Things I Do,” by God, as told to John Shore, wherein (as simply a literary device—and amongst a whole bunch of other stuff I do in the course of this short book), I have God himself answering the main objections to Christianity most often asked by … well, by the kind of normal, rational person I was both before and after my conversion experience.
Before I was a Christian, I had no idea that Christians were supposed to be anti-gay; that is how ignorant I was about Christianity. Then I learned about the clobber passages, and all that. My reaction to the notion that God condemned gay people just for being gay was, “[Very bad word] that noise.” About then I had begun blogging for Crosswalk.com. Looking out at the Christian blogosphere, I was appalled to discover that (as far as I could see, anyway), the number of Christian bloggers who were using their platform to advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT people into all aspects of Christianity was exactly zero. So I started writing about what I knew/know to be the proper—which is to say the Christian—relationship between gay people and Christians/Christianity. My first such piece—carefully phrased, since it was written to appear on the very conservative Crosswalk.com—was What Would Jesus Do If Invited to a Gay Wedding?, which I was pleased to see go viral.
Ultimately, my seven years of work on the gay issue culminated in my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, my post The Bible and Homosexuality: Taking God at His Word, and The Not All Like That (NALT) Christians Project.
Somewhere along the line people began asking about my personal theology; they knew what I was against, but wanted to know what I was for. Because I couldn’t find anything that suitably articulated my core Christian beliefs, I wrote the 14-tenets for Unfundamentalist Christians. That document gave rise to the Unfundamentalist Facebook page, which as of this writing has 26,900 members.
People often assume that I’m super-liberal and/or “progressive.” And in many ways I certainly am; I am not at all displeased to have been ordained a pastor by The Progressive Christian Alliance. But when it comes to the nature and purpose of Jesus Christ, theologically I’m so old-school I should write with a quill. Whenever anyone essentially accuses me of being a Bible-dismissing liberal, I always want to show them … well, Tenet #1 of Unfundamentalist Christians:
Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He performed miracles; as a means of providing for the irrevocable reconciliation of humankind to God he sacrificed himself on the cross; he rose from the dead; he left behind for the benefit of all people the totality of himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
I mean, how old school is that? You can practically hear me thumping my Bible.
And I would thump away on the bad boy, too. I am a hardcore, full-on, Gospel-loving Bible freak. I do believe that the Bible fully expresses the entirety of the relationship between God, Jesus, and mankind. And God knows I am exasperated with the great genius St. Paul being so viciously, blatantly, and purposefully misunderstood; I despise how Paul’s words are so often pulled out of context, twisted, and then used toward ends that Paul himself would have clearly found repulsive.
But. Another post for another … second half of my life.
I’m straight; I’m 55; I’ve been married to my wife Catherine for … um, as many years as it is between when we got married in 1981 and now. (And yes, that’s me at the top of this post.)
Seven years into this work, and so far I earn, from my entire life online, about $1,200 a year. So clearly I’m not doing what I do because it pays so well. (If you’d like to do anything to change that, please do.) I do what I do here online, as often as I can afford to do it, because I believe it is the right thing to do. I love what Christianity is supposed to be; I’m not thrilled with a lot of what Christianity has become; as a Christian I feel duty-bound to right what I can about that. Not a complicated thing.
I’m madly in love with my wife; I’m blessed with this bizarre thing in my brain that makes a ridiculous amount of things seem to me almost excruciatingly funny; when I write I basically just close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, go into some … weird place, and start typing.
Then I hit the “Publish” button, and hope for the best.
Thank you, friends, both old and new. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, to each and every one of you.

  About John Shore
John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). Visit JohnShore.com. You're also heartily invited to like John's Facebook page.

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