Author Archives: Faith Line Protestants

Why I Didn’t Give Up Anything for Lent: Learning to Give Myself Some Grace

By Guest Blogger Matt Hoffman

For as long as I can remember, I have given up something for Lent each year. When I was younger, it was chocolate or caffeine. In college, I graduated to giving up snack foods and meat. Recently, the fad has been to “take on” some practice—maybe thirty minutes of meditation or prayer each day (if you are looking for a creative thing to take on, I had a friend who adopted the practice of never eating lunch or dinner alone during the entire 40 days). Such practices have been important for me during Lent because they have increased my awareness of God’s presence in my life.

This Lent has been different. Breaking with tradition, I decided that I would neither give up something, nor would I take on an additional practice this year. Indeed, the Lenten devotional book from my church is still sitting in my school bag, unopened. I am not sure if my decision was due to laziness or being “busy,” but to be honest, I just couldn’t bring myself to any sort of Lenten practice.

Reflecting on this decision, it has become apparent that my choice was not so much an act of rebellion but one of mature faith. When certain practices begin to feel like burdens, it is important to reflect on how these practices draw us closer to God. What is the reason for engaging in such a practice? Are we just going through the motions? Most importantly, it is necessary to extend ourselves some grace when it comes to spiritual practices.

Liturgically speaking, the Lenten season is a time to pray, fast, and repent for our sins. Mirroring Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (in Matthew, Mark, & Luke), this solemn season marks a time of introspection and closeness with God. In Lent, we have the opportunity to know Jesus as a fellow human, someone who experienced temptations and desires.

Facing the option of whether to engage with Lent this year, I simply chose to opt out. This does not mean that I am opting out of the season or the responsibility of reflecting on how I fall short of my potential and cause harm by my (in)action in the world. It simply means that there are times in our lives when we must learn to claim our spiritual agency. I do not believe that God is marking down on a large notebook whether we participated in each part of the human-created liturgical calendar. Moreover, God is not keeping tally of each time we forget to pray or decide that we cannot forgive someone right in the moment. God is not watching out for each piece of Lenten chocolate eaten or each 30-minute prayer session slept through. Instead, we must learn to extend a little bit more grace to ourselves.

The joy of grace is knowing that we do not have to be perfect. It is okay to ask for a “timeout.” Indeed, this time of the year can already be stressful enough with looming midterms exams, family vacations, Easter dinners, etc. So, if Lent this year is not your thing, give yourself some grace. God does not want you to be perfect. If you need a break, take one. I won’t tell.

So, if the doldrums of life/Lent have you down, remember that God’s grace abounds. Live fully into this grace knowing that no one is marking your progress on a clipboard this Lenten season. Take a break and love yourself.

For those of you who have added a practice or have given up something for Lent, I salute you. But, whatever you do, please give yourself a little grace in the process. And, if you decide that you need a break from Lent, I support that too.

At least there will be two of us who are not Lent-ing.

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Christian Witnessing: An Evangelical’s Guide to Interfaith Engagement

By Kevin Garrity, High Point University Student

Last week in my Contemporary Theology class I was reminded of what it means to be a witness to the miracle of Jesus Christ. We were learning about the famous theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who used an analogy for Christian witnessing in terms of a trial. The professor explained that there are various actors involved in a trial – such as a judge, the prosecution, and witnesses.

As an evangelical Christian, witnessing is a fundamental part of my faith. Oftentimes, I feel at odds when witnessing to, and identifying with, people from different religious traditions. I think this is because of the sensitivity required for sharing my faith in a non-abrasive way. Thinking about these different actors in a trial has given me a better sense of how to both honor my religious convictions, and identify with individuals who do not come from Christian backgrounds.

I will share what I have learned from Bonhoeffer’s analogy here. I hope that you too will find it a helpful guide to navigate interfaith engagement, and that you come away with a better understanding of what it means to be a witness of the Christian faith.

The role of prosecutors is to prove the wrongdoing of another, while the judge’s job is to make a decision on whether or not an individual’s actions are deserving of punishment. Scripture indicates, though, that we do not have the capacity to fulfill either of these roles: “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12).

One should take notice that this verse is condemning judgment of one’s neighbors, not personal judgment. Of course it is necessary for Christian believers need to be the judges of their own actions, but no one is in a position to condemn the beliefs of others.

Abstaining from judgement or condemnation does not mean that doubt or criticism of other faith traditions should remain un-verbalized. It means that the doubt or criticism must not exist in the mind of a Christian believer at all.

For me, withholding judgment starts from my deep belief that the Christian faith is my ultimate truth. And, while I maintain this as a personal truth, withholding judgment ends through exercising a sense of humility – acknowledging that my personal truth, which is ultimate for me, may not be the only truth for everyone.

Having humility is necessary to be a witness. Witnesses are members of a trial who share what they have experienced. They do not speak to the experiences of others because their concern is only what they have seen, heard, and felt. And further, trial witnesses only share their experiences when they are called upon, or invited to do so.

The question is, how can Christians think about their role as witnesses in interfaith settings?

Christian faith is legitimized when the witness speaking about their faith, and telling their story, exudes a sort of character that makes a listener want to share the same faith as the storyteller. The convincingness of the witness then relies not on what they say they believe, but on how much the statements of faith seem to influence their life.

Witnesses are only as convincing as how well their story of faith aligns with their character. Rather than telling someone what they should or should not believe, Christians must focus on living out the faith they hope to share; a faith that tells us we are incapable of judging anyone but ourselves.

 

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Learn about the basics of Ramadan

Ramadan begins this week. Brush up on your facts and history regarding this Muslim tradition here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/07/ramadan-2013-facts_n_3529135.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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Re-Launching Faith Line Protestants

We are excited today to announce the re-launch of Faith Line Protestants. After falling victim to busy schedules and demanding academic curricula, the conversation which formally began two and a half years ago is restarting with renewed enthusiasm.

While Cameron Nations and Greg Damhorst will continue to contribute, they will be joined by three new regulars offering perspectives and opinions on living Christian in a religiously diverse world, engaging people of other faith traditions, and understanding the role that evangelism plays in following Jesus in 21st century America.

Our new contributors are:

  • Amber Hacker, Alumni Relations Coordinator at Interfaith Youth Core
  • Ann Marie Roderick, Masters in Divinity candidate at Union Theological Seminary in New York City
  • Rachael McNeil, Interfaith Coordinator at the University of North Florida

We hope you will be enriched by the diversity of experience and perspective, yet common vision of the contributors.

As always, we welcome your active participation in this discussion. All posts will be open for comments and we offer a standing invitation to guests wishing to contribute and article for this site (simply contact us at mail ‘at’ faithlineprotestants.org).

So, without further ado, enjoy the discussion!

– The Faith Line Protestants Team

 

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Ira Glass on how Christians are portrayed in the media

Ira Glass talks about the difference between Christians portrayed in the media and Christians in his life – worth a listen:

Found at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/slices/ira-glass-christians-are-horribly-covered-media

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Two Important Books for Evangelicals About Interfaith Cooperation

John Morehead of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy has written a dual book review of recent books by Brian McLaren and Eboo Patel. Check it out on the Evangelical Channel of Patheos.

And be sure to check out:

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian McLaren

and

Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America by Eboo Patel

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Blessed are the Peacemakers

From Nicholas Price on Relevant, closing out an excellent series on interfaith cooperation:

… my hope is that evangelical Christians would becoming “culture makers” rather than “culture warriors,” and I see interfaith cooperation as one way in which this can happen.

Read Nick’s article at Relevant Magazine Online.

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Why Evangelicals Should Read Brian McLaren’s New Book

John Morehead of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Interreligious Diplomacy offers a review of Brian McLaren’s new book: Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World.

Read the review at Englewood Review of Books.

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