Navigating The Storms of Religious Extremes

Do you feel like you are in the middle of a storm-tossed sea; especially when it comes to social media platforms? Don’t worry, you are not alone. I may be able to help you.

On Christianity Explained, my focus is on Christianity and the main target is the larger Christian community. However, I believe you will find this blog post to be of value; even if you are not a follower of Jesus.

How does one discover who is right? Everyone does have an opinion and we can’t all be right. Can we? No, we can’t all be right! For the average person, it doesn’t help to see Christians screaming at each other! How does such behavior honor God or further His Kingdome?

I would like to offer some suggestions that may be of help to you. You don’t have to be afraid of the raging storms that frequent the Internet.

This podcast episode is available on Spotify, iTunes and other listening platforms

When it comes to the Christian faith, it would help to know that there are two extremes in the Christian community. How can I be certain? Am I just parroting someone else? I wish! Truth is, I’ve spend 10 years of my life living in an area dominated by ultra-conservative Christians.

They were not too happy with me. For one, I am not a true conservative. I am what some would call a civil libertarian or a true liberal. I am for change and individual freedom that is guided by the Word of God. I believe in applying mercy and compassion. Scriptures are not meant to be a shackle; rather, it is a vehicle for freedom.

Between the above statement and my disabilities, I had plenty of unpleasant conversations. Some conversations bordered on the hurtful side. Hence, I had to literally hide my desire for social activism because I feared the confrontations.

It is not until I returned to New Jersey that I met conservatives who were anything but conservative. Can you imagine the look of confusion seen on my face? I had yet to learn my experiences had been with strict or extreme conservatism.

Thankfully, my Father has already started a work of healing on my heart and helped in my adjusting to a new & healthy church environment. One key element in the healing is not to judge someone based on past experience.

Don’t lump everyone into a singular group and attribute group think to that person! If someone is a jerk then he alone is a jerk! Not everyone else. I do believe in free speech and I alone am responsible for what I choose to say. This is a central definition of classic liberalism. Guess what? It’s in the Word of God, too!

35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 12:35-37 [NASB]

Here is another key to navigating the turbulent sea of extremes. Though I am for change, it needs to be tempered by wisdom. For not all change is good. I’ve found the Word of God to be quite helpful in discerning things. How so? Here’s what Paul says in 2 Tim 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 [NASB]

For this to happen, I need to get the whole counsel of God. If all Scriptures is profitable then I can’t be selective in the use of the Word of God. Here is the fun part. The Bible is both humanly written and divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is also not written in English or with a Western mindset.

The Word of God is written by men living in the Middle East and in a very different time. As such, I have found it very helpful to ask questions about what I am reading. It is okay to ask Jesus about what you’re reading. It’s also okay to ask how something would be expressed, in my culture or language?

Here’s a classic from 1 Timothy 2:11-13. For modern readers, this is an alien concept. It is alien for a reason.

11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.

I never had a problem with a woman, as a pastor or teacher. Heck, I didn’t know this verse existed and how it was being used. Why did I say this instruction sounded alien? It’s strange because Paul’s not writing about a modern church service. How can I tell?

I’ve heard people talking quietly during a church service. It happens. Except, I’ve never seen a reason for Paul’s odd statement. Here’s where research is your friend. Did you know that men and women did not always sit together? Do you know that women were not taught how to read? They’d literally had to ask their husband; as they did know.

Plus, it did not line up with the fact that women were the backbone of Paul’s ministry. There is also the fact of Philip’s daughters, who were prophetess. Does not one need to speak in order to prophesy? Do you see where I’m going? You need to have the whole counsel of Scripture. This includes the Old Testament.

Check the facts! Don’t rush into an opinion. It is always a good idea to ask Jesus for help in what you are reading or listening to if you’re using an audio Bible. Do what I did and explore deeper into what’s being said in the text. I’ve done some digging in other areas and it really helped my understanding of what God is saying through the Word of God.

Here’s a final point. Your religious bias is going to shape how you read Scriptures. If this were not the case, then we wouldn’t be jumping down each other’s throats. No one Christian denomination has all the answers. If so, The Roman Catholic Church would not have suffered two major splits. The Protestant movement would not have given birth to a ton of different denominations.

Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus! Let’s learn to live in the love of God, the Father. Let’s seek out God’s presence and enjoy the Word of God. Let’s pay careful attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying through both the written Word of God and the spoken Word of God.

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