Monthly Archives: July 2017

On “Comfort Zone Christians…”

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This post could be titled, “Where the magic happens.”  That is, while listening to last Sunday’s sermon a phrase hit me.  “Comfort zone.”  As in the comfort zone so many Conservative Christians seem to like.  As in “Comfort Zone Christians.”  Which led to the image above.

And led to this thought:  Those too-literal Fundamentalists are “missing out on the magic…”

I’ve used a lot of terms to describe that type of Christian; the kind this blog tries to challenge.  To get them to “explore their full potential.”  I’ve tried terms like Boot-camp Christian.  (As illustrated at left.  That is, the kind of Christian who never seems to want to leave the “boot camp” where he “learned the fundamentals.”)

 I’ve also tried the term Carbon Copy Christians.  (As have others, who describe the Christians who seem to  go to church only to become “mass produced carbon copies of each other.*”)   But Comfort Zone Christian seems to hit the spot.

Like I said in the opening paragraph, God wants us to live lives of abundance.  And He wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  Or as I said in Reading the Bible, “you’re only cheating yourself if you choose to read and study the Bible only in a strict, narrow, or fundamental way.”  Or – finally – as the image at the top of the page indicates, if you’re a too-literal Bible-reader, then you miss out on “where the magic happens.”

For more on this topic, see 7 Reasons Why [the] Comfort Zone is Dangerous.

The article – subtitled Live Life to the fullest – described the term as that “situation where you feel completely secure, comfortable and relaxed to what you currently have.”  Which is one thing many people look for when reading the Bible.  And which is generally a desirable place to be.  However, if you stay in your Comfort Zone too long, you don’t grow.  You stagnate.

Also, being too comfortable – in life or in Bible study – “causes negative mindset and attitude.”  And that – unfortunately – is what many Christians are known for.  (As noted in Latest from a “None,” Googled the term “negative Christians” and got 12 million hits.)

Last of all the article said staying in your Comfort Zone too long limits your chance to “Live Life to its Fullest.”  And that would be a violation of John 10:10.  Then too, if you want to even try to follow the mandate of John 14:12, you need to remember this:  We cannot become what we want to be by remaining what we are.  That is, you can’t come close to doing greater miracles than Jesus if you read and study the Bible only in a strict, narrow, or fundamental way.

Which doesn’t mean you never read the Bible that way.  Sometimes it pays to go back and get a refresher course in the “fundamentals” of the Bible.  The danger comes when you only read the Bible strictly and narrowly.  Which brings up the concept of “mysticism.”

The terms “mystic” or “mysticism” seems to drive Conservative Christians crazy:

Mysticism is when you get into a mystical state and it’s something you cannot understand, you’re out there in “la-la” land, it’s an “oooh” experience and you’re really not thinking.

See What is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.org.  (As the term was discussed in On the Bible and mysticism.  Which post also noted:  “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”  

But as first used, the term “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and On originalism.

In other words, mysticism – connecting with God – was “what the Bible was originally about!”  For another example – thinking outside the box – see also The Bible’s “erotic love poem.”  That post discussed the Bible book Song of Songs.  (Also called the “Song of Solomon”):

The Song of Solomon is a love poem, frankly erotic, apparently composed to celebrate a wedding.  This, too, is appropriate, for Solomon had numerous wives and was, presumably, an experienced lover.  (E.A.)

The irony is that Bible literalists and/or fundamentalists insist on not giving the Song of Songs its literal meaning.  Instead, such Comfort Zone Christians read this book – and this book alone – “allegorically, as having to do with God’s love for his people.”  In the alternative, they interpret the book as “treating the love that it celebrates as an analogy for the love between God and the Church.”

In other words, the idea of a “frankly erotic love poem” in the Bible is something Conservative Christians can’t seem to handle.  (Or choose not to, as in “You Can’t Handle the Truth!”)  But the better course – aside from interpreting all the books of the Bible “strictly and literally” – is to treat the Bible as both simple enough for a child and yet “full of mysteries:”

In other words, you could say that the Bible message is both simple enough for a child to understand, yet so full of subtle mysteries that a lifetime can be spent on its study, yet still leave myriads of lessons yet to be learned.  (See 1st Corinthians 4:1:  “This then is how you should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”)

That’s from Snake-handling “redux,” which made the point that the Bible is best approached on two levels:  A literal level where you “learn the fundamentals,” and a more spiritual level “where the magic happens.”  Or as Paul said in 2d Corinthians 3:6, Jesus “made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit;  for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  (Which is another way of saying, “If Jesus was a Conservative, we’d all be Jewish.”)

Snake-handling “redux” raised another danger of reading the Bible too literally:  The danger that some people tend to take isolated passages out of context, and way too literally.

Which means that they could end up like “Stumpy” in the picture below…

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The snake handler on the right – “Stumpy?” – is arguably taking Mark 16:18 “out of context…”

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The upper image is courtesy of comfort_zoneblog.crew.co.  The subtitle is “Why it’s scary and why you should;”  I.e., why you should get out of your comfort zone from time to time.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Carbon copy Christians, see Paul describes an out-of-body experience, which included the link, How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle:

Churches, wittingly or otherwise, often taken on the role of mass producing assembly lines. Each Christian is instructed in the same way, given the same set of rules, a particular sanitized clothing lines of music selection, and specific speculative interpretations of scripture which they must abide by.  Churches such as these are not interested in creating unique Christians but mass produced carbon copies of each other.

The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Bizarro-statue-620

Bizarro Santorum – his “mirror image” – says:  “There’s no such thing as a conservative Christian!” 

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Back in 2008, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made headlines for supposedly saying, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.

Whether he actually said it is subject to debate.  (See e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum.)  But whether he said it or not, the idea seems common among “Conservative Christians.” See for example The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:

Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom.  Freedom from tradition, freedom from institutions, freedom from authority, freedom from dogma.  The freedom to be and do as you choose…  Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin.  In short, it is anathema to God and should be recognised and treated as such by all who consider themselves Christian.*

At this point it should be noted that I beg to differ.

Being a “Liberal” Christian – or, God forbid, a moderate – is simply the opposite of being a boot-camp Christian.  (One of those “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.'”)  I’d also like to point out that the Apostle Paul was himself accused of heresy.   See e.g. Acts 16:20-21 and Acts 18:13 (Jesus on the other hand was accused of blasphemy, not heresy.)  The point being that the penalty for heresy – or blasphemy – was usually death.

The caption for the image above left reads:  “Massacre of the Waldensians of Mérindol in 1545.”  It shows an alleged heretic – with long flowing hair – being pushed off a castle wall to her death.  That image itself harks back to Luke 4:29.*  That’s when when Jesus was similarly threatened, with being thrown off a cliff:  “Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built.  They intended to push him over the cliff…”

I discussed this whole mess – liberal vs. conservative Christianity – in the May 2015 post, WHY we’re getting “less Christian.”  The post included this, America becoming less Christian:

[T]he single most important reason [is] younger people moving to the left on social issues and the most visible religious leaders moving to the right on that same issue.

That study indicated the biggest reason many young Americans turn away from fmainstream Christianity is negativity.  (“You don’t believe it?  Just Google ‘negative Christians.’  I did that and got almost 12 million results.”)  Ironically, the study noted the “rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans.”  (Which supports my theory that such literalists drive “potential converts away in droves.*”)

Which brings up the subject of the Bizarro Rick Santorum.  Simply put, Conservative Christians – like Rick  Santorum – benefit greatly from the inherent strength of negativity bias:

…even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things.

ClassicBizarro.PNGWhich is another way of saying the nastier you are, the more you “win.”  It also means a person who is not content with being just a boot-camp Christian needs to point out the downside of “being conservative.”  He or she needs to be – in effect – a Bizarro Rick Santorum.  (But see also Adversary System, below.)

Which in turn means that he or she needs to start arguing – for example – “There’s no such thing as a conservative Christian!” 

The allusion is to Bizarro Superman, seen at right.  More recently, there was a Seinfeld episode, Bizarro Jerry.  The episode showed Jerry, George and Kramer meeting their mirror images, Kevin, Gene and Feldman, as shown at the bottom of the main text:

Kevin [is] Jerry’s opposite since Kevin is reliable and kind, contrasted to Jerry’s forgetfulness and indifference.  Gene is shown to be quiet, courteous, charitable and well-dressed as opposed to George being loud, obnoxious, cheap and slobbish.  Feldman acts generously to his friends…  He also always knocks on Kevin’s door and waits for him to unlock it[, unlike] Kramer, who constantly takes Jerry’s groceries and bursts through his door without warning.

So here goes.  The Bizarro Rick Santorum could say there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian.  He could say “conservative Christian” is a contradiction in terms.  (On that  note, you – or he – could just Google “conservative christian oxymoron.”  I did that and got 3,450,000 results.  But be forewarned, some of those results read Is Liberal Christian an Oxymoron?)

Or he could say, “Where in the Bible does it say you have to be a close-minded right-wing wacko to get to heaven?”  (Remember, this is “Bizarro Rick Santorum.*”)  But finally he might just say:

“If Jesus was a Conservative, how come we’re not all Jewish?”

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Kramer, George and Jerry meet their “bizarro opposites…”

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Notes:

The upper image is courtesy of kotobukiya created a statue that the bizarro version of jerry seinfeld would totally get on board with … dailydead.com:  “Standing eight inches tall, this Bizarro anti-Superman statue is based on DC Comics’ New 52 version of the popular villain and will be released in November [2016].”  (Which is actually kind of appropriate…)

The Rick Santorum image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Santorum speaking in Des Moines, Iowa in 2011.”  (Santorum formally announced his run for the Republican presidential nomination – for the 2012 campaign – “on ABC’s Good Morning America on June 6, 2011.”)  On the other hand, some conservatives think that Santorum himself is “way too liberal.”  See Rick Santorum is NOT a Conservative | Christian Forums.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to Luke 24:45, see the “further notes” below the four asterisks.

As to liberal Christianity offering “freedom to sin,” the emphasis was in the original.  And as to Luke 4:29 – where Jesus was threatened with being thrown off a cliff, and before opening his disciples’ minds – see My Lenten meditation, featuring the image at left, along with the note that in Luke 4:21-30, “Jesus wasn’t threatened by stoning, as Moses was.  Instead, ‘the people’ wanted to throw Him off a cliff.”

Note also that I explored the “Bizarro” idea in “Meet Bizarro Trump?”

Re:  Americans becoming less Christian.  See also Study Finds Americans Less Religious Than Ever : NPR, and U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious | Pew Research Center.  But see also, Fewer Americans Than Ever Hopeful for Children’s Future.  (I’m not sure if there’s any connection there.)

Re:  Bible literalists driving potential converts away in droves.  See The Bible’s “erotic love poem:”

The point is that if you limit your Bible-study to a purely literal interpretation, you’re robbing yourself of at least half it’s value.  (And driving potential converts away in droves.)  But if you move on from a purely literal interpretation, to an open-minded spiritual interpretation, your Bible-study can take you to exotic adventures and explorations that you couldn’t have dreamed of before.

Re:  The “old Seinfeld episode, Bizarro Jerry.”  It was the 137th episode, and the third episode for the eighth season.  Originally aired on October 3, 1996, the “title and plot extensively reference the Bizarro (the polar opposite of Superman) and Bizarro-Earth concepts that originally appeared in various comic books published by DC Comics.”

A final note on “Bizarro Santorum.”  As Wikipedia noted, in 2006 – when Santorum sought re-election to a third term as Senator from Pennsylvania – he was “mired in controversy and spent much of his time on the campaign in defense against his own past statements and positions.”  In that re-election bid, “Santorum lost by over 700,000 votes, receiving 41% of the vote to Casey’s 59%, the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator since 1980.”  It would seem that a true “Bizarro” would have smoothly cruised to re-election, by Casey’s 59 to 41% ratio.

And one final note on whether conservative or liberal Christians are “always right.”  It could be argued that an American Christian should believe the best method of finding spiritual truth is through the clash of measured, well-thought-out arguments.  That’s the Adversary System, and it’s the basis of both our legal and economic American way of life.  As to the former, “The adversary system is based on the assumption that the truth of a controversy will best be arrived at by granting the competing parties, with the help of an advocate, an opportunity to fight as hard as possible.”  As to the latter see Free market – Wikipedia.

The lower image-slash-video is courtesy of Bizarro Jerry – WikiSein, the Seinfeld Encyclopediaseinfeld.wikia.com.*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.