Sunday, October 05, 2014

Myth #3: America is a Christian Nation

A popular view among evangelical and fundamentalist Christians is that we have lost our originally founded Christian nation to liberal and secular influences. We need to return to our Christian moorings as a country or face God's judgment, which has already started in the form of economic recession and possibly through attacks by Al Qada and now ISIS. There is some lost "golden age" to which American Christians need to return, the belief goes, or else.

Last night, at our discussion group, we watched a DVD on nonviolent movements that included the story of the lunch counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement headed by Freedom Rider James Lawson. It reminded us about this myth of an American Christian nation. This is where we need historical honesty. Anyone who looks objectively at the history of America concludes that there really is no "lost golden Christian age" on which we were founded. Every generation of Americans has had societal blemishes that could only be characterized as unchristian (or, more accurately, unlike a nation following Christ), from the founders perpetuating slavery, to our treatment of native Americans, to the stain of child labor practices during the industrial revolution, to suppression of women's rights, to segregation and oppression of African Americans, etc.

Intellectually honest evangelicals like Mark Noll (In Search for Christian America) and Greg Boyd (The Myth of a Christian Nation) have exposed this myth through careful examination of the intentions and actions of our founding fathers. The American idea, of course, was based in some ways on the principles of a loving God found in the Bible, e.g. "All men are created equal" and "endowed by rights by their Creator," but this is a far cry from America being a unique "Christian nation." Enlightenment ideas also heavily fed into American democracy. Only a few of the founding fathers were conservative Christians. Many of them--Franklin, Jefferson, John Adams, Washington, et al--were Deists and Universalists, and would be considered liberal heretics by conservatives today. Although many believed in "Divine Providence," this did not mean they believed in all of the Christian "orthodox" biblical teachings.

Jesus was not a Christian, nor did he found Christianity or an institutional "Church," and America is not a distinctly Christian nation. Yet, I and millions of people, seek to follow Jesus' teachings in order to make the world a better place. As I hope to demonstrate in my next book, sound study of history reveals this paradox and opens the door for a new spirituality our society desperately needs. If these things are myths, what is a more historically-grounded faith in Jesus?

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Second Anniversary Book Offer!

2nd Anniversary of Book Offer! Get a free hard copy of my book, Confessions of a Bible Thumper--my illuminating journey (with a craft beer theme) out of conservative Christianity that carefully debunks traditional views on the Bible, church, gays, the "end times," hell, Christian America, and more.

AMAZON REVIEWS: "A very thoughtful and much-needed book." "Really makes you think." "Compelling..." "Well-researched" "This is a book that has reached it's time. A great example of what happens when people truly pursue God."

Learn why Marcus Borg, Tony Campolo, Frank Schaeffer, and Mel White endorse this book! Free copy to those who agree to review it (positive or negative) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's, or your blog. First 20 to email me get free copy, including shipping. Contact with physical address (My apologies, I can't take requests outside the U.S) and indicate place you will review. Visit MichaelCampBooks for videos & endorsements. Cheers and enjoy!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Myth #2: Jesus Founded Christianity and the Church

In the first myth on the list, we saw how Jesus, historically speaking, was not a "Christian," but a Jewish wisdom Teacher and "Anointed One" who came to reform first-century Judaism and open up a new way to connect with God (that welcomed non-Jews), based on love and the testimony of the Jewish prophets and writings. From this, we can see that, since Jesus was not a Christian, he did not found a new religion called "Christianity."

In reality, Jesus was against religion, all religion, Jewish or otherwise. In his movement, there were no sacred priests, pastors, places, or proscribed religious practices (only love was its guide).[1] In Christianity, all this came later (Frank Viola, Pagan Christianity). Jesus announced that the Jewish Temple, along with its Priests and sacrificial system, was about to become unnecessary. It would be destroyed and a new way of worship was coming, and had come, where it didn't matter what place people worshiped, but only the state of one's heart. (John 4:21-24). Jesus did not come to replace the Temple with a new Christian system, but to instill what Garry Wills calls "a religion of the heart." (Wills, What Jesus Meant, page 76).

Jesus didn't found a church. The word translated "church," ekklesia, merely means a gathering of people. The same word is used to describe a mob in Acts. Jesus and other New Testament writers describe gatherings of people that were non-hierarchical. They met in homes not church buildings. They were not led by pastors or apostles ('apostles' means ones who are sent, and could include women), let alone professional clergy, but either were self-regulating or facilitated by a egalitarian plurality of elders--unpaid, non-professionals. Where two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, Jesus said, he is present. This is the meaning of the original "church." The notion that Jesus founded a Church on Peter or otherwise and/or began an apostolic succession is a myth that began centuries later (see Wills, What Jesus Meant and Robin Meyer, The Underground Church). The practice of assigning bishops did not begin until the second century. All the other church practices we know of from buildings, to altars, to choirs, to worship teams, to sermons, to statements of faith, etc., arose in the centuries after Christ (see Viola).

No, Jesus did not found a new religion called Christianity, nor a new institution called Church to replace the Temple or synagogue system. He came to demonstrate the love of God and announce that "the reign of God" (misleadingly translated 'Kingdom of God') had arrived and would be growing--and in a way that would welcome and include all people and not be proscribed through a religious system. So, why do we have churches, denominations, professional clergy, church planting, and a mentality that Christianity is a religion began in the first century?

[1] Many demonstrate historically that things like communion were instilled later. The "Lord's meal" was merely a Jewish custom that Jesus said "as often as you eat it it, remember me" and didn't proscribe a schedule for it nor command it. As for baptism, that appears to mirror the Jewish custom of ritual cleansing and many argue it was not technically a legalistic prerequisite for conversion or salvation that it has become. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Walking the Religion-free Path of Christ

Wild Goose Festival 2014 | June 26-29 | Hot Springs, NC

A few months ago I submitted the following speaking proposal to the Wild Goose Festival. They had over 300 submissions this year! Unfortunately for me, I was not chosen. Fortunately for you, there will be plenty of incredible speakers more accomplished than myself, including Sara Miles, Mark Scandrette, Brian McLaren, Melvin Bray, Jim Wallis, and Frank Schaeffer. This year’s theme "Living Liberation!" explores how our walk with Christ can lead beyond our legacies of racism, sexism, homophobia, colonialism, and economic inequalities. Check out the speakers and musicians lists and consider going. Although I won't be attending this year, I have gone three times and have always been blessed and encouraged. The fellowship with like-minded folks in the beer tent is worth the price of admission! The blurb below includes some of what I've been involved in lately. Cheers!

Walking the Religion-free Path of Christ 

Former evangelical missionary to African Muslims and author of Confessions of a Bible Thumper, Michael Camp uncovers the critical importance of historical rather than “biblicist” faith in “The Religion-Free Path of Christ: Walking an Old Paradox in a New Paradigm.” He gives examples how ignorance of history and misreading the Bible have caused erroneous views on women, homosexuality, the church, evangelism, and the future, and offers a vision for religion-free but Christ-centered world service that fosters love, goodwill, and social justice. Michael co-leads a Seattle-based missional house gathering, facilitates theological discussions in pubs, and serves Rotary International on community development and microfinance projects empowering the poor in Africa based in a club in Bainbridge Island, WA.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Myth #1: Jesus Was a Christian

[Part of series, 36 "Christian" and Secular Myths You Should Know]

Most people make this common and unexamined assumption that Jesus Christ was what we call a “Christian” and, in fact, the very first Christian, the one for which the religion was named. Travel back into the first century, however, step into the sandals of anyone who knew or encountered Jesus of Nazareth and you will realize how untrue this is.[1]  As history, the New Testament, and other sacred texts attest,[2] Jesus was a Jewish teacher or Rabbi living in first-century Palestine who closely followed the tenets and traditions of the Jewish prophets and law. The difference was, not that he represented a new faith, but that he brought a revolutionary way of interpreting an existing faith—pre-rabbinic Judaism of the first century.

His way was to interpret the Torah in light of its very own love ethic, making love the priority over law, while closely following the voices of the Jewish prophets. These were reforming prophets who identified corruption within the Temple sacrificial system, foresaw its demise, and announced a future new covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham. Jesus followed their lead with his own authority and called for the original purpose of the Jewish community—to be a light to draw Gentiles (non-Jews) to the one true God of justice and love. Jesus was not a Christian. He was a Jew calling for radical reform of the Jewish faith while opening the doors for non-Jews to enter into relationship with God in the spirit of a new Jewish covenant that made the Jerusalem Temple system obsolete. His first followers were all Jews. They believed he was the “anointed one” (the meaning of ‘Christ’) whom the prophets had foretold, not someone who would abolish Judaism and begin a new religion, but someone who would reform it.   

[1] What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills
[2] Did Jesus Exist? by Bart Ehrman

Monday, March 31, 2014

36 Modern “Christian” and Secular Myths You Should Know

Yes, I believe all of these are myths, in one way or the other, either as specific assertions or as blanket statements. At least, I will attempt to make the case that they are, based on biblical, historical, linguistic, archeological, and, in some cases, scientific evidence. Think about each one and see if some of them surprise you in light of others. Stay tuned for a blog post on each.

1 - Jesus was a Christian
2 - Jesus Founded Christianity and the Church
3 - America is a Christian Nation
4 - Jesus is a Myth
5 - Jesus is Irrelevant
6 - The Bible is Infallible
7 - We Should Obey the Bible
8 - The Bible is Altogether Unreliable
9 - English Translations of the Bible are Trustworthy
10 - The Bible Has No Spiritual Authority
11 - The “Kingdom of Heaven” is About the Afterlife
12 - Jesus Predicted the End of the World
13 - The End Will Come When the Gospel is Preached to the Remaining Unreached Ethno Linguistic Groups of the World
14 - Jesus is Coming Back
15 - Only Christians are Saved
16 - Atheists are Evil
17 - You Deserve to Go to Hell
18 - Jesus Took the Punishment for Our Sins
19 - Jesus Taught a Literal Hell
20 - Universalism Means God Won't Judge Us
21 - Paul Was a Misogynist
22 - There Were No Women Leaders in the New Testament
23 - Monogamous Heterosexual Marriage is God’s Standard
24 - God Condemns Homosexuality
25 - Sex Outside Marriage is Always a Sin
26 - Sex is Not a Moral Concern
27 - Science Has Proved There is No God
28 - Progressive and Liberal Christians Are Heretics
29 - Conservative Christians are Bigots and Religious Nutcases
30 - God Commands that Believers Belong to a Local Church
31 - Believers Should Tithe to a Local Church
32 - All Religions are the Same
33 - All Religions Besides Christianity are False
34 - God Hates Divorce
35 - Evolution is Not Biblical
36 - Intelligent Design is Not Science