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A Letter to the United Church of Christ

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This letter started out with a purpose of being about the denomination’s flirtation with politics, specifically the Left. As I wrote this letter, I couldn’t help but criticize other things that stood out to me. As I write later in the letter, I notice the log in my eye. So, I know I will be judged with the same measure I judged here. So I want to apologize if I seem arrogant or brash. I’m on a journey, just like everyone else, toward understanding the Divine and the implications that brings. So please, read this with the heart of Christ. And remember, the Kingdom of God is in(amongst) you. Amen. The United Church of Christ: I am saddened by my denomination and its flirtation with politics. I don’t want to argue theology with you, because I agree with you on most things. Although, I want to correct something I see – although I could be wrong – a misunderstanding of Jesus’s message. This denomination -it seems - has an understanding that Jesus’s call to usher in the Kingdom of God is not only a spiritual coming, but a political one. And the UCC’s national office proclaims that. However, that’s a funny concept. A denomination that is welcoming to anyone – United Church of Spiritual but not Religious as the controversial picture states- doesn’t allow other views of “the Kingdom of God” to be professed. And I think that’s we were are going wrong. I don’t think – and neither do some other UCCers – the Kingdom of God is political. But then begs the questions, how do I understand the so-called political implications of Jesus? What do I make of the Good Samaritan? The rich man who wanted to inherit eternal life? Matthew 12:33a “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy.”? Jesus hanging out with the oppressed people? The two great commandments? The parable of the Two Sons? The golden rule? Maybe even the whole Render unto Caesar what is his and render unto God what is God’s. Those are not political statements and actions. They are transformable teachings. They are teachings – and acts such as dining with the hated people – that should transform our mind to that of Christ’s. To help us understand that Christ is in all and through all. That the Word sustains the universe. That all humans are created with a Divine spark instilled in themselves. And I think we -meaning the entity portrayed as “The United Church of Christ” and myself - agree mostly here. However, I also don’t think that means we need to implement our values into our politics. In our society – as the church denomination, our individual congregations, and ourselves – we should. However, we shouldn’t force it onto others who do not think the same. And you’ll ask me, how are we forcing our beliefs upon others? How are, by stating “the Truth” not doing as God commands? And to that I say, the religious left is just as bad as the religious right. This country, in which the majority of the United Church of Christ is hosted – is built on the constitution. And with the constitution comes Amendment number 1. That reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (emphasis mine). And I bet you totally agree with this (the UCC actively fights for the rights of our Muslim brothers and sisters and active involvement in Gay Pride events/protests ) to an extent. I want to say I applaud you on supporting Muslims and LGBTQ groups with giving them a voice. However, I think you miss the flip-side of this amendment. Let’s start with recent events and go backwards as needed. The University of Chicago has recently sent out a letter to their students regarding “trigger words” and “safe places” and how following this new social trend of protecting people from things they disagree with is detrimental to their education and growth as a human being. Without hearing other sides of the story – regardless of how much it may offend you or regardless of how much you perceive them to be in power (perception is reality [to an extent])- one cannot formulate a decent argument to defend one’s position. For instance, my grandpa and I discuss theology and politics quite frequently. He’ll bring up his Rapture theology and I’ll bring up my view of the Kingdom of God and all hell breaks loose. Yes, sometimes I wish he’d just “educate” himself and understand why I think he is wrong. But he probably wishes I’d do the same. Yet, in the end, we understand that the “enemy” is still human and they still have their faults as long as their high-points. We understand that God loves us both. And because of this commonality, humanity and striving for the best for this world, we don’t force our opinions on each other. We help each other grow and strive to understand our arguments deeper. And if one of us comes to a realization that we are wrong, we admit it and transform ourselves toward the Truth in love. But, until then, we are both on equal footing, strengthening our arguments. To bring this back to “safe spaces” and “trigger words”, I have seen the UCC support that. And, if I’m mistaken, then I’ve seen it as The Church being a safe space. And I want to disagree with that. But first let me clarify something: I’m not against safe places in relation to specific groups. They are private entities and have the right -as long as all the individual members agree - to be a safe space. I just think the very nature of Church is different than a safe space. A safe space is a place to protect oneself from dangers. However, danger to the ego is quite prevalent in Jesus’s message. For us to turn the other cheek and let our pride down. To help our enemy, as the Good Samaritan did. A whole bunch of selfless acts that can only be done if we put on the mind of Christ. To become Christ in the flesh. And I think that sometimes the mainline churches like to forget a couple things: our basis for being good Christians is a different basis than an Atheist for being a good human. If it’s not, then why are we Christian? I believe it’s because we let our binary mind be transformed into mind of Christ. And because we have that mind of Christ, we are Christ-like. I also think that Mainliners – specifically politically liberal mainliners – forget that not all humans look trough the same lenses. Most people want the same humanistic goal – a good world full of people doing the right thing - but they think of that goal in different ways. An example would be the legality of homosexual marriage (neglecting the point of view that government should stay out of marriage because that’s moot to what we are discussing). People who hold to a traditional view of marriage tend to think of marriage being a vehicle for families to develop and pass on bloodlines. Then there’s the religious argument of the man being united with the woman as one whereas it’s not possible for homosexuals to have relations the “proper way”. And to see homosexuality being toted as being okay and legally accepted is to slap the face of their worldview. Or vice versa. The people for legalizing homosexual marriages are for it because it’s up to the individual to do what they want and that it is natural - as shown in some species. And to say otherwise is to slap their worldview in the face. So, when a church denomination speaks on behalf of their congregations, it takes away the voice of those that disagree with the denomination. Which, I find ironic in the United Church of Christ where all are welcome regardless of where they’re at on God’s journey. Because when you tote one worldview over the other, it suppresses another’s and therefore demolishes the authenticity of “all are welcome”. Think of it this way: The Episcopal church’s requirement of receiving the Eucharist is to be baptized in a Christian Church. Yet, it was toted as an “open communion”. Does not the implication in the words “open communion” seem to be ALL are able to take communion? Although that’s not true. Same goes with “all are welcome.” Just as the mainliners like to yell at the evangelicals for not “acting Christ-like” enough, I’d like to yell at the UCC for not being open enough. Where are the Facebook posts from the more conservative congregations? The ones who are more like the roots of our church, Puritans? Or where are the NT Wright like conservatives? Or where are the Facebook posts from the more evangelical congregations? Where are the congregations who disagree with the majority of congregations in the denomination? Where is the voice for the minority? Where is the voice for, dare I say it, the oppressed congregations in this denomination? Does not everyone deserve a voice? Is it not a congregational-based denomination? So please, broaden your theological lenses to include those you disagree with. Start roundtable discussions! Or start article series from dealing with issues from all sides of the political and theological spectrums. I would actually love to have those type of discussions. Once again, I think argumentation helps one develop their ideas more. The onlookers would also have exposure to more ideas that they’ve never seen before. For instance, dealing with hell and the afterlife, Purgatorial Universalism vs. Eternal Conscious Torment vs. Annihilationism. That would be interesting to read! But, to get back on point with the flirtation of politics. Not every congregation in your denomination agrees that “white privilege” is as big as a deal as your most recent post about it does. Or that the “patriarchy” exists and is oppressing woman. So, why do you make such overtly political posts on Facebook? Why can’t Church and State be separate? Now, I know I sound very self-righteous and arrogant. I apologize for seeming that way. I’m just getting tired of seeing my religion being mixed in with politics. I know I could leave this denomination, but that would miss the whole point of this denomination. We are the UNITED Church of CHRIST. We are united in the love of Christ, and thank God for that! We must stay united, but that doesn’t mean uniform. We don’t need to agree on everything and that’s the awesome thing about congregation based denominations! So let’s use that power to bring in voices of everyone! So, I don’t want to leave. In fact, I plan on being ordained in the UCC. I’m too young to be – currently and undergrad – but I hope to one day be part of the clergy proclaiming the love of Christ. SO, I judge, knowing I have a log in my eye, to help my brothers and sisters with their speck. My log includes addiction to porn, self-indulgence of food, and the necessity of being right all the time. A typical college student. Remember, this is all for the betterment of the Church. To help bring us closer and help all feel welcome to God. For the Divine sustains us and transforms us. From our selfish ego to the loving Christ embodied in us. Amen. A Young hermit and pilgrim, traveling the path of Faith toward union with God

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1 Young Hermit = "This is the one I'm talking about."
2 James Oppenheimer = "I don't see this as arrogant. I do, however, think you should review and edit and resubmit. Two problems that I see are (1) numerous places I have difficulty following because it appears words aremissing or malappropisms and (2) while the claim is made for the denomination doing politics, there is no specific examples with sources to which you are specifically referring, so it is difficult to examine your claims at the source. Much of the time, you seem to be saying your denom advocates "the left", and this troubles you. It is hard to imagine us reading the prophets (Amos!) and not being somewhat leftist.So,primary sources should be supplied, and some care in editing, because I would like to know what you mean, as opposed to guessing."