Moving Beyond Belief: A New Focus for the Christian Faith
Martin Luther sent his Ninety-five Theses to the Archbishop of Mainz on October 31, 1517. This dramatic act led to a revolution for many with the Christian faith being anchored in the Bible rather than the authority of the Roman Catholic church as an institution. Protestantism was born.
Growing up a Protestant Christian, I have spent my life trying to become what I call “a Sermon on the Mount” person. Living my life according to the teachings of Jesus has been a formidable challenge. As you will see as you work your way through this brief book, it has also been a formidable challenge for many Christians. Most seem to prefer to worship Jesus rather than trying to live according to his teachings.
A religion centered around biblical belief, Luther’s solution, hasn’t worked to heal the many problems both here and abroad. It is often easiest to make a point by looking at an extreme case. Conservative Christians worship the Bible. They see it as God’s word, as literally correct throughout. They center their religion in the belief that Jesus will save them and take them to heaven. Sadly, this religion of belief for many evangelicals is an ideology which doesn’t touch the heart. Here is what results.
It's an indisputable fact that Jesus was inclusive, that he reached out to all people without regard for their differences. Many evangelical Christians bash gays with the message that their sexual orientation is an abomination. They also reject people of color as is seen with their silly diatribe against critical race theory, a set of ideas that most of them do not understand.
Most Christians agree that Jesus opposed violence, and yet many evangelicals oppose even moderate attempts to control the use of guns. They claim to be pro-life, but their support of life seems to end at birth. They oppose government spending that seeks to foster the healthy development of children. Their solution is to keep women as mothers. The love of a mother for her children is a special gift from God, but women were created for more than to be “barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.”
Paternalism is deeply embedded in the consciousness of many evangelicals despite several hints in the gospels that Jesus had an enlightened view of women for a first century man. (1) There is a wonderful story in Luke of a visit Jesus makes to the home of Martha and Mary. (Luke 10: 38-42) Martha represents the traditional woman who spends her time doing household chores during Jesus’ visit. Mary, on the other hand, spent her time with Jesus at his feet listening to his teachings. When Martha complains to Jesus that she needs help with the chores, Jesus responds that, in fact, Mary has chosen the better course of action. See also Luke 8: 1-3 where the evangelist notes the single women who are followers of Jesus. The idea of single women following along with Jesus is a revolutionary idea for first century Palestine.
Because modern science has been devastating to their literal worship of scripture, evangelicals reject it. As a result, they have concluded climate change is a hoax. Only God can change the weather, and thus there is no need to spend government money to try to reverse it. Many choose to believe anti-science conspiracy theories suggesting vaccines to control the Covid virus don’t work with the result that these anti-vaxers endanger the health of their family members and neighbors by their refusal to get vaccinated.
But enough of this. This book is about love, and the last few paragraphs have been anything but about love. The central argument of this book is that we must shift the focus of our religion from biblical belief to a sense of the deep love that comes from knowing God if we ever want to succeed in living the teachings of Jesus. (2) That has been my experience anyway, and this book represents a fifty- year journey in coming to that conclusion.