Friday, February 24, 2012

Thoughts on Faith and Politics

by Rev. H. Michael Johnson

As a citizen, I am pleased that in our nation we can debate the issues and qualities of those who we consider electing into offices to serve every person. We are in the midst of watching our democratic system at work in choosing leadership.

As a Christian, I am appalled at the abuse of the Scriptures to serve a political purpose. Candidates promote the worst kind of religion that is judgmental, harsh, legalistic, hate-filled. In seeking to win votes, prayer is turned into a weapon and Jesus is given a party label. They trash the Messiah’s directives to love all and serve all with their stump speeches.

Religion is a powerful weapon and has always been used by faith groups to dehumanize others and justify attacks on the lives of those whom they wish to conquer. Christians often use texts picked out of context to denounce their political opponents and turn people’s trust in God into shouts of rage just as Satan used the Scripture to tempt Jesus in the wilderness to serve the purposes of Satan.

Jesus came, not with the political power of an earthly kingdom, but with God’s power that stands up to the darkness of this world raining justice on people and not an angry religion. The power of Jesus sought to call people’s lives to change toward the good; crossing any cultural boundary to lift up the fallen, hurting, the lonely, the forgotten. The power of Jesus loves enemies and sees all humanity as worthy of coming to God’s table.

Jesus came to be a light to all nations. Let us tell the true story.

Michael Johnson is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Rowland, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, First Baptist News.

Friday, February 17, 2012

An Unexpected Friend in a Time of Fear

by Rev. Len Keever

Last week an old friend visited me quite unexpectedly. I was doing my devotions when I was directed to a text that has meant more and more to me every time we sit down for a chat. Scripture has a way of doing that; it becomes our friend when we spend time together. A passage of Scripture can sit with us when we are down, be honest to us when we need a friend to tell us the truth, and accept us as we are when we when we just can’t be who we aren’t (or we discover we aren’t who we thought we were). Familiar passages can comfort us, challenge us, and soothe us. When we have a history with a Biblical text, the memory of that text can illicit warm thoughts; it can also remind us of how far God has brought us from the last time we were together.

For many, the Bible is a book of answers. For some it is a book of instruction. For me, especially as I grow in faith, it has become a friend. The stories that I have spent time with, the little verses and phrases that have jumped out to speak to my heart when my heart needed a word from the Lord, each have become very dear to me. For example: one day I was sitting with my Bible wondering how I was going to get everything done I needed to do. I was feeling particularly vulnerable to failure; my resources were so depleted. To be honest, I was in a season of lament. I was overwhelmed. That morning the devotions led me to read a section from Isaiah 41. The second time I read it, verse 10 jumped out at me: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” At that moment, a friendship was formed. I was introduced to a text that spoke to my circumstances. We sat and had coffee together. I told the text my story and it told me a truth I needed to hear. We became best friends that day.

How we read the Bible is as important as when we read the Bible. If we pick it up and read it like we’d read a newspaper we’ll only get details. If we read it as we would read an encyclopedia or an article on Wikipedia (for the computer savvy) we’ll only get information. But if we can sit with it as we would visit a friend, sharing time, insights, what we’ve been going through and how it is weighing on us, then we are open to allowing God to speak to us in a word or a verse, a phrase or an image that has the potential to speak deeply to our hearts.

Years ago, I heard a professor talk about meditating on Scripture. That sounded so formal. I didn’t understand what he meant. Today I think I know. For me meditating is forming a friendship with a particular passage. We sit and talk to each other. We share what’s going on. We listen to one another. And, somewhere in there something deep happens. It becomes personal. God speaks.

How do you read the Bible? Do you have friendships there? Sometime today, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, maybe even get a slice of cake or a piece of pie, sit with your friend, tell it your deepest concerns, your most frightening thoughts, your needs. Listen to what your friend says to you. Let your Bible become God’s Word to you.

Len Keever is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dunn. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Builder.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Slim Fit

By Rev. Aileen Lawrimore

Have you noticed? Every garment promises it—from blouses and dresses to jeans and jackets: “Slim Fit.” “Super Slimming.” “Secretly Slimming.” “Sleek and Slim.” “Slim Style.”

I’ll admit, I’m one of the reasons this marketing strategy works. It’s true; I’ve bought lots of things (and not just clothes) that promised to perfect me upon purchase. So before I start my rant, hear me: I’m guilty.

Now. Let’s move on.

Issue #1: Why do we think that a garment will solve all of our body image issues? (And by “we,” I mean not just you, but me too—see above.) We’re fatter than ever here in the US of A, and the diet industry is growing just as fast as our slim-fitting dresses. Let’s try a new slimming technology: Let’s eat right and exercise. But let’s eat right because it is the right thing to do and because it is wrong to eat junk and to overeat. Let’s exercise because the benefits are greater than the inconvenience. And then, healthier and stronger, let’s buy what we want and wear what we like, knowing it really isn’t clothes that make a person. It’s character.

Issue #2: Why in the Sam Hill do size two jeans need so-called “slimming technology?” Seriously. It’s one thing to slip slimming secrets into my size 12 jeans; it’s another for size 2’s to promise such nonsense. I’ve seen it, and if you look, you’ll see it too: jeans smaller than size 4, blouses in XS that promise to make their wearers appear even smaller. Crazy. Come on now. Have you ever seen a size 2 person who was just a little on the plump side? If you have, you are the one with the problem—and I mean this—get yourself some help.

Issue #3: What’s so great about being slim? You know what I think? Here’s what I think: I think it’s a white thing. You read me right. I said it’s a white thing. A Caucasian quirk. How do I know? I know because I have lived my life surrounded by people of other ethnicities. Not only did I attend inner-city schools, I’ve worked and lived in environments where my pale skin put me in the minority. And it’s been my experience that other ethnic groups have more liberal attitudes about beauty. Lots of things define beauty. Skinny can be beautiful. And so can curvaceous. Green eyes, dark eyes; light skin, dark skin, freckled skin; curly hair, straight hair, streaked hair, natural hair, permed hair; long legs, short legs, fat legs, skinny legs, legs that climb on rocks. It’s all good. So get with it white folk; then get over it.

Well, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” (Which is of course an outright lie: I could talk for days about this topic—or any other). So I’ll just close with what I used to close my Weight Watchers’™ meetings with, “You are beautiful today. When you lose weight, you will be thin and beautiful. But today, you are just plain beautiful.”

Aileen Lawrimore is a public speaker, freelance writer, and editor. This article originally appeared on her blog, Aileen goes on…and on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Is History Repeating Itself?

by Dr. David Stratton

"Had the holding of slaves been a moral evil, it cannot be supposed, that the inspired Apostles, who feared not the faces of men, and were ready to lay down their lives in the cause of their God, would have tolerated it, for a moment, in the Christian Church."

Baptist hero Richard Furman wrote the words above in a document entitled "The Views of Baptists Relative to the Coloured Population of the United States." The first edition of this pamphlet was published in 1822 and a second edition was produced in 1838, some 13 years after Furman's death. For decades this biblical defense of slavery became the model for Bible-based arguments in favor of owning people in this country. Baptists and many other Southern evangelicals were just sure that there was nothing wrong with holding slaves and they adamantly claimed to have the Bible on their side. On the other hand, other Christians, mainly in other parts of the country, made biblical arguments against slavery.

These days we think Southern Christians were wrong to defend slavery back then and we are ashamed of the biblical arguments made by Furman and others. We repudiate their take on the scriptures as adamantly as they clung to it.

This bit of history is one thing that concerns me about the prevailing position of evangelicals regarding homosexuality. Most evangelicals, including most Baptists, say today that all homosexual behavior is wrong and they point to a handful of biblical passages to support this claim. But some other Christians interpret the scriptures in a more affirming way regarding homosexuality.

Is it possible that someday Christians will look back on the prevailing position of Baptists and other evangelicals on homosexuality today in much the same way that we look back on the position concerning slavery of Richard Furman and other Baptists of the 1800s? Whatever your answer to that question, we have got to learn to talk about this issue in a healthy way. We've got to figure out a way to discuss this important topic with a humility inherent to the realization that we see as through a glass darkly--we don't know it all.

And we've been wrong before.

CBF and Mercer University will be hosting a Conference on Sexuality and Covenant at First Baptist Church of Decatur, April 19-21, 2012. For more information, please visit the website:

Dave Stratton is the Pastor of Woodhaven Baptist Church in Apex, NC, and he serves as Chair of CBFNC’s Wealth and Poverty Committee. This article originally appeared on Dave’s blog, David’s Deliberations.