“Speak up and Judge Fairly; Defend the Rights of the Poor and Needy” (Proverbs 31:9)

Almost 10 years ago, I wrote my first book called LOVE THIS!, and what an adventure it’s been since then.

I started to write because I was increasingly aware of the way my faith world and my real world were colliding.  No matter what lens I chose to see the sphere of faith through, the reality is; there’s a REAL WORLD out there longing to know how to make sense of the most basic tenants of life.  For example:  We all live on the same planet.  We all eat similar food.  We all drink water.  We all long for dreams and futures lying right around the corner, and in the midst of it all is this confusing element of life called Religion.

Ten years ago, I would have never even dreamed or imagined I would do my graduate work in the Philosophy of Religion, but here I sit, probably more in tuned and informed in how religions came to be, and how they are affecting the world around us.  And believe me, sometimes I wish I didn’t know what I know now.

For some, religion has a beautiful conceptualization helping the poor, serving the needy, giving to the less fortunate, and giving hope to some of those issues I mentioned above.  But other times, religion serves to give credit to the insider while keeping the outsider at arm’s length.  It uses relationships.  It corrupts the good.  It gives power to the powerless.  It frames a way of living that’s “normal” while those who want the freedom to choose are left to choose one way…our way…my way.

Filled with judgement and the promise of a beautiful afterlife, religion tends to hold the boundaries of who is in, and who is out, in the communities who embrace its tentacles.

More and more, I’ve been challenged to think about religion as a necessity of faith followers, which brings me back to the reason I wrote LOVE THIS!  Sometimes, you’ll hear Christians say, “It’s about a relationship with God, not a religion.”  But in truth, if you pull up the covers of their own faith practice, it’s full of the same types of religious dogma they try to disassociate themselves with.  The Rise of the Nones is a compelling conversation today about an entire generation leaving religious circles, and I find myself asking “WHY?”  But in truth, the more I dig into the conversation with the Nones, the more I find myself wanting the same things they’re talking about.

The Origin of Christian Faith

Unfortunately, the stereotypes of the Christian faith have been propagated by the loudest, often the most minority of the faith.  Ideas like:

If you’re a Christian you don’t like Science.
If you’re a Christian you hate gays
If you’re a Christian you’re stupid
If you’re a Christian you don’t have any fun
If you’re a Christian you are judging everyone
What a lie….

The Origin of our faith lies in Jesus’ words:  “Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  The second is like it  Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-40

So when someone tries to wrangle their version of religion (rules) with their own chains of bondage, it’s important to remember, Jesus said: Love God and Love Others like you love yourself.  Everything else hinges on making sure you comply with these two.

So when we wonder about what rules to follow
When we are fearful of doing faith a wrong way
When we wonder will God like me if….
Just remember…Loving Others is what God has in mind for us on planet earth today.

I’ll be spending the rest of the week writing from LOVE THIS, because 10 years is time to re-visit some original thoughts of faith and practice.  If you’d like to read along with me this week, feel free to order from http://andybranerbooks.com/products/love-this, and I’ll send you a signed copy ASAP.

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