Friday, September 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

1. I'm taking this idea from Jennifer Fulwiler, who blogs at Conversion Diary. She's been doing the 7 Quick Takes Friday for three years as a way to do little updates and announcements without having to write a full blog post about each thing. I think it's an awesome idea.

2. This has been a really rough week for me, just a series of mistakes and roadblocks. I haven't been this excited about the end of a week in a long time.

3. A cub and mother black bear were spotted about two streets over from where I live. I live in the very middle of town, so I'm still trying to figure out how the bears got into town before anyone noticed them.

4. I'm still having a hard time explaining just why I felt like I needed to join the Catholic Church. Part of it is because I'm never sure what someone's reaction might be (some Protestants have really crazy opinions on Catholics) and part is because when I say, "The Spirit led me." it feels like a cop-out of an explaination even if it's true.

5. On a related note, I'm not joining the Church because my boyfriend is Catholic. I know some people think that's the case, but I take my faith more seriously than to change it for someone else.

6. I'm enjoying RCIA, even though I wish there were some people my age. I feel like it's very slow, which is better than being rushed through I suppose. I'm glad I have the time to learn things and reflect that this is what I really need, but I'm also starting to impatient, wanting to go deeper or faster.

7. It's finally starting to get chilly here. I love jacket weather. I sort of miss walking to class in weather like this.

Religion Friday: Evangelicalism

Evangelicalism (meaning “good message”) first began during the Great Awakenings’ revival. People wanted to strip away religious technicalities and traditions and focus on the cores: salvation and a personal relationship with Christ. In reality, most Christians fit under the broad umbrella of evangelicalism, but I’m going to talk about the group that usually self-identifies as evangelical and rose as a movement in the mid-twentieth century, fitting somewhere in between mainstream Protestantism and fundamentalism. Today, Evangelicals make up the majority of Christians in the U.S. with an estimated count of 70-80 million.

Evangelicals believe in the prime authority of the Bible, the Great Commission (sharing your faith with as many as possible), and that you must have a “born again” experience where you without a doubt accept Christ into your heart.

I live in the Bible Belt. There are a lot of Pentecostals and evangelicals. As I mentioned last week, the Pentecostal style of worship is foreign to me as I just haven’t had a lot of experience with Pentecostals. Evangelicals are another story. Their very name indicates that they believe in confronting you, talking to you, convincing you to convert. I think it’s admirable they are so open and enthused about their faith. It’s done with the best of intentions; they don’t want you to burn in hell. But my experiences have usually left me very uncomfortable. It’s a very extroverted form of Christianity, and I’m a pretty big introvert (as if you couldn’t tell).

Have you been saved? I got asked this quite a bit in school. My Presbyterian and Lutheran friends would either 1. not even know they were talking about religion and respond “from what?” looking around for a danger or 2. be familiar with the phrase and give smart aleck responses such as “Yeah, 2,000 years ago” which apparently is an unsatisfactory answer. Now I just say yes; it’s true of course, whether the two of us are using the same “born again” terminology or not.

Evangelicals have a language and a culture all their own. But they don’t isolate themselves from everyone else. Many believe liberal Protestants adapt to the secular culture and fundamentalists avoid contact with secular culture, while evangelicals try to change the culture to match their biblical beliefs. It was evangelicals who created the marketing idea of the Christian Right, which has dominated conservative politics for the past 30 years. While I admire letting your beliefs guide your decisions, I don’t like the merging of church and state in such a way as the Christian Right has. Suddenly liberal Christians and conservatives of other faiths are pushed out of the political sphere to create a “right us” versus “wrong them” catfight.

In continuing with this idea of working in but not of the secular culture, evangelical services are typically known for their worship/praise bands and use of multimedia. I’ve always gotten the impression that evangelicals want people to think it’s hip to be Christian, that Jesus was this awesome guy you should want to hang out with. Theologically, I don’t have much of a problem, though I think a little more reverence for Jesus would be nice. My issue is about presentation. I understand that if it’s important to you to attract as many believers as possible, then advertising is going to come into play. But people shouldn’t go to church because it’s the cool place to be; they should go because it’s the right place to be. I’m sure some people are attracted for the wrong reasons and stay for the right ones, but does that justify the wrong reasons to begin with? Are we supposed to trick people to church? By trying to be so pop culturally relevant, I can’t see the difference in them selling Jesus and MTV selling Jersey Shore. And what happens to that person’s faith when the Jesus fad wears out and they look for the next cool thing? Suddenly the church has the burden of always being on the cutting edge of coolness in order to keep members.

I think the best way to evangelize is being a good Christian. Loving your neighbor, striving for virtue, confessing your sins and learning to do better, helping the poor, living the same on Saturday night as you do on Sunday morning. You know, all the hard stuff. The people you touch will see the joy you have in living that way and be drawn to that joy. We’re still kids that learn best from imitation.

[The fish is an old symbol for the Christian faith, but today, you're most likely to see it on the back of an evangelical's car. That's why I decided to use it to represent this movement, which again, is so broad, there isn't really one symbol to represent it.]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Religion Friday: Pentecostalism

We’ve got the Spirit, yes we do, we’ve got the Spirit, how bout you? –what I imagine Pentecostals saying to each other in the parking lot after church.

The Pentecostal movement is really broad, tying in to the earlier Holiness movement and good ol’ Great Awakening ideas and paving the way for the newer charismatic movement. But many agree that Pentecostalism officially began with the Azura Street Revival. William Seymor, the son of former slaves, began his revival in 1906 in Los Angeles. He preached baptism of the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by speaking in tongues. His services consisted of emotional alter calls, faith healings, and speaking in tongues. Most churches rejected his teachings, but he gained followers from the poor white, Hispanic, and African-American neighborhoods. Services at Azura Street continued almost around the clock for years as visitors came to see what all the fervor was about. In its early years, the movement encouraged racial integration and gender equality, but as it grew and became more organized, it fell back on the established culture, separating the races and restricting preaching and leadership to men.

Pentecostals believe in being baptized by the Holy Spirit. This often manifests itself through the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues. Early in the movement, people thought that the tongues were languages of other countries, and missionaries were told they didn’t need to study languages. It only took a few mission trips to discover this error, and leaders redefined their definition of tongues to a non-earthly language. For salvation, Pentecostals believe a person must receive three “baptisms”: the baptism of Christ (accepting Him as your Lord and Savior), baptism of water, and baptism of the Spirit.

Worship services usually include a lot of emotion and movement. Worshippers may clap, dance, or shout. There can also be healing services and speaking in tongues. It’s all a bit (ok, a lot) chaotic for me. I do believe their experiences with God in that style are genuine, but God doesn’t speak to me that way (suddenly, loudly, emotionally). God speaks to me little pieces over a long time. I hear God in stillness. I focus on God through order. The Pentecostal concept of worship might as well be another foreign religion to me.

Another tenet of Pentecostalism is the belief that Christ is returning very soon. You have to get right with God RIGHT NOW because the end is near. I agree that the end might be near, but I also think it might also be a few centuries away. You can’t use any political changes or natural disasters as sure signs. I’m sure people in the early 14th century thought the plague was a sure sign, or people in 1883 thought Krakatoa was a sure sign, or people in 1917 thought the Bolshevik revolution was a sure sign. If those aren’t signs, than neither is U.S. debt and hurricanes. There is no knowing. And more importantly, there is no point in knowing. While we shouldn’t put off getting right with God, I don’t like using apocalyptic fear tactics to do so. Focusing on the end makes us ignore (or hate) the present. Love should lead us to God, not hyped-up fear.

Today, it is estimated there are more than 11,000 different types of Pentecostal denominations all over the world, which obviously makes it hard to fit Pentecostal beliefs under one revival tent. How does one movement (whether Pentecostalism or Christianity as a whole) result in thousands of interpretations? And these aren’t just little differences. Oneness Pentecostal churches reject the doctrine of the trinity. That’s pretty fundamental. I believe individualism is important. If someone wants to quietly mediate and another wants to jump and speak in tongues, both should considered valid expressions of faith. But I can’t believe that Christ would have wanted us to have to sort through tens of thousands of Christian options to find one that’s the right fit. The fact there are so many options speak more about American consumerism and individualism than Christianity. Faith shouldn’t be like Burger King; you don’t get to just “have it your way.” You have to accept or reject what already is. And while I’m not saying my personal opinion is the only right path, I do know there aren’t 30,000 truths to Christianity.

[I'm using the flame to represent the Pentecostals since it usually represents the Holy Spirit and the holiday of Pentecost. Obviously, with thousands of denominations, they don't have a symbol representing the whole group.]

Next Friday: wrapping up Christian movements with the Evangelicals

Thursday, September 22, 2011

No Establishment

When reading about the Anabaptists last week, I started thinking about separation of church and state, an idea the Anabaptists held in Europe when it was practically unthinkable. The idea of separation of church and state is still a hot issue in America. It seems that no one wants the state running their church, but plenty would be ok with their church running the state. But with more than 30,000 different kinds of Protestantism, let alone other Christians or other religions, it would be mighty tricky to figure out which church’s values get to run the country. We credit the idea of this separation to Jefferson, but really, Jesus supported it as well. One of the main reasons Jews don’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah is that the Messiah is expected to become a great ruler on earth. But Jesus didn’t seek earthly political power because his kingdom wasn’t a plot of land. His kingdom is above politics. In fact, he advised to “render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and render unto God that which belongs to God.” That means, pay your taxes, be a member of society, just make sure you’re living the virtuous life as well.

The early Christians could never have imagined Rome becoming a Christian state. They knew Rome was not going to tolerate a monotheism that spoke of another king, promoted evangelicalism, and sounded kinda cannibalistic. So they met in secret. But they didn’t deny their faith, living one way at church and another in public. They died for living as Christians. I think Chinese Christians (and Saudi and North Korean and many, many others) today can relate to the struggle of worshipping in secret but also trying to live their faith honestly. (I know that by not being able to relate to it, I am very blessed.)

But even in a country that promotes religious tolerance before anything else in its Bill of Rights, it’s still difficult to figure out what should be kept private and what belongs to be expressed publicly. When is keeping quiet against the faith? When is promoting one’s faith persecuting another? Should we get rid of the Ten Commandments in front of courthouses? Probably. Should we take “In God We Trust” off the money? Probably. But since I’m a Christian, I’m not really going to promote change, just not argue with those who want it. The First Amendment says that the government will not support any religion over another, and that the citizens are free to worship however they want. Now, I would love if the government decided, “No, we’re going to be united under one faith. Everyone needs to believe this.” It would certainly make a more cohesive culture. But I probably wouldn’t love is so much if “Everyone needs to believe this” meant “Everyone is Mormon now.” Or Sikh. Or Taoist. Or atheist. That’s why the First Amendment exists. People fled to America to get away from state-run churches, so America’s foundation is one built on a government that provides collective safety but promotes individualism.

People complain we have strayed from our (Puritanical) roots. But I think a country of various individuals believing whatever they want, seeking God or safety or money, is exactly our roots. The only problem I see with this is that America lacks a strongly defined culture. We often use the word freedom as a one-word catchphrase to describe America. But freedom means lots of people living lots of different beliefs and values, only united by geography. There is often a lack of community and duty when fellow citizens are the “others” and individualism is prized above all. But, I think to be American, you have to decide that the freedom is worth the chaos and hate and bickering and misunderstanding.

I don’t know what it’s like to actually feel my life in danger because of my faith. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood by individuals, to be told I’m wrong and probably going to hell, to be the butt of jokes. But that’s different from actual violence. Separation of church and state doesn’t mean the state is anti-church or that the church should be anti-state; it just means, “Hey, let’s not kill one another over this. That’s what those bourgeois Europeans did.”

The key isn’t merging church and state, but using our freedom wisely. Pope John Paul II said, “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.” To be able to freely practice our faith, we have to allow others the freedom to practice theirs. We should use our freedom to outwardly live and celebrate our faith, to fight for our brothers and sisters who face real persecution, and convert others through loving neighborliness rather than threats and swords.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gospel in 10

As a journalism major, I should be good with brevity. But I usually write long sentances with lots of clauses. So, what if I tried to sum up the Gospel in 10 words? Putting a word limit on anything makes you really evaluate what matters most and which words best represent your ideas. This is my take:

Christ suffered, resurrected, defeated sin. God loves unconditionally. Do likewise.

How would you sum up the Gospel or the Bible in 10 words?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Religion Friday: Anabaptists

For some reason, when the term Anabaptist came up in high school history class, I thought Anabaptist meant Anti-Baptist, and I couldn’t figure out why Mennonites hated Baptists so much. But Anabaptist actually means “baptized again” because they rejected infant baptism and baptized believers as adults.

As part of the Radical Reformation, Anabaptists rejected a lot of established doctrine, thus making my “ana-”/ “anti-” snafu not that unreasonable. They believed in avoiding violent conflicts (pacifists), secular courts, and basically any avoidable dealings with non-believers. They were early, major proponents of a separation of church and state and of economic egalitarianism. They believed in the sole authority of the scriptures and that individuals could properly interpret scripture by guidance of the Holy Spirit. Many sought to return to a style of 1st-2nd century church as demonstrated in the New Testament.

This was also the first movement to really have an emotional style to their worship services. Those who felt led by the Spirit would yell, dance, or cry during services. The Anabaptists radical views led them to be persecuted by both Catholics and other Protestants of the time. That’s why so many moved to America, where various branches of the movement are still practiced: Brethren, Mennonite, and Amish. Obviously, the Amish are the most conservative Anabaptist group.

There are almost 250,000 Old Order Amish today. They’re the ones who look like time stopped 300 years ago. The Amish came to America from Alsace and the German Palatinate; today, they continue to speak Pennsylvania Dutch, read from the fifteenth century German Bible, and farm and dress in their traditional manners. There is a strict set of moral codes followers must abide to ensure the community does not slip to English/modern conveniences. Humility, submission, and hard work are valued. While I admire the Amish attitude of rejecting modern distractions and having simple lives to better focus on God, I find it both too extreme and too easy. It’s extreme because I don’t think modern inventions like electricity, planes, higher education, and jazz are sinful. Can they become distractions? Yes. But that is the fault of the individual, the human who is easily distracted by any new idol. In fact, modern medicine and faster communication are pretty awesome things. Rejecting anything and everything new just because it’s new and perhaps tempting is rejecting the God-given gifts of innovation and exploration. And it’s too easy because yes, the world does have distractions that lead to sin, but part of being faithful is facing sin and choosing virtue instead. To live in a secularized world and face differing opinions and the freedom to do what you want yet still remain faithful is a much bigger struggle than living in a small community of like-minded members holding one another accountable.

But most modern Anabaptists do live in the modern world, and their beliefs aren’t much different than any Baptist or Methodist group. In fact, it’s easy to see the “radical” Anabaptist influence all over the now-mainstream evangelical sphere today.

[I'm using the dove to represent the Anabaptists. They didn't believe in the use of icons or symbols. Today, the Mennonite Church USA uses a dove. The dove with the olive branch represents the pacifict stance of the Anabaptists.]

Next Friday: Pentecostalism

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

With a Childlike Faith

When I was about to start kindergarten, I got it in my little, worrying mind that I was not cut out for “real” school. I had the distinct picture of a very strict teacher standing in front of a blackboard, calling me out, asking me the capitol of one of those African countries I’d never heard of. We didn’t cover that in pre-school! I was going to be a failure.

Guess what? Kindergartners are not required to know African capitals. In fact, I have never been asked what the capital of Togo or Chad is. But at the beginning of every school year through elementary and middle school, I was sure that this was the year my knowledge just wasn’t going to cut it, even though I was an A student the year before. There was so much to know about the world; I didn’t feel prepared or intelligent enough to move forward.

I feel that way now. There are so many things about Catholicism that I feel I have no preparation for. I can’t recite the Nicene Creed, I still don’t understand the Immaculate Conception, and why is fish not a meat? There are more saints than African capitals; how am I supposed to learn all this? I’m sure I’ll be a terrible, fumbling Catholic.

But it’s ok to feel out-of-place and ill-prepared on the first day of school (or RCIA). It’s not that I actually am ill-prepared; it’s just that there is so so much more to learn. But I don’t think God is going to pop-quiz me on 5th grade mysticism while I’m still a kindergarten candidate. I’m not required to be perfect right away, or ever. There will always more to learn. I will progress. At my own pace, maybe in a fumbling way at times, but I will learn and grow. And one day, I’ll get to take Mass like the big kids.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Religion Friday: Calvinism

While Luther was beginning his reform movement in Germany, Zwingli and others were starting their own reforms in the Swiss Confederation. The two reform movements considered a merger at one point, but Luther and Zwingli disagreed on some key things, such as the real presence in the Eucharist. The Swiss reform movement was picked up by John Calvin, who clarified what the reformers believed.

Calvinism is best known for its idea of predestination, that is, God has already chosen who will be saved and who won’t. It can be outlined through the acronym TULIP:

Total Depravity: All people are born with inclination and willingness to sin rather than completely turn to God.
Unconditional Election: God has chosen those He will give grace to throughout eternity. Neither faith nor works will earn salvation unless God has decided it so.
Limited Atonement: Jesus’ sacrifice and atonement was for the elect only.
Irresistible Grace: If God has chosen someone to be saved, that person will be saved. It is not that person’s free will to choose salvation.
Perseverance of the Saints: The elect will always be faithful to God. If they fall away, then they were not the elect. God does not allow the elect to fall away.

Now, I was raised Cumberland Presbyterian, and sometimes when someone heard Presbyterian, they would go, “Oh, so you believe in predestination?” But I have never met someone who believes in the TULIP view of salvation. It’s always been my opinion that God exist outside of time. He already knows who will accept salvation and who won’t, but it’s still a choice for us humans. He gave us free will. He offers us grace. The burden is on us. That doesn’t diminish the sovereignty of God.

Of the five points, the only one that really jives with me is total depravity. Yes, we’re born with original sin. We like to sin. We’re inclined to sin, and it takes some work to not wallow in sin and try to live for God. But that’s another post for another time.

The perseverance of the saints is tempting. It’s the “once saved, always saved” mentality. Even some groups that don’t believe in predestination believe if you are really saved, you won’t fall away. If you fall away, then it’s a sign you weren’t really saved. Jesus commanded “Ye be perfect,” but He wasn’t saying we’d actually get there, just that we should strive for that. Trying, failing, apologizing, and trying again hopefully a bit better each time. Faith is a journey. Sometimes, people take the wrong path and wind up abandoning God. It doesn’t mean God wanted them to fall away, nor does it mean that any previous devotion and faith they had wasn’t genuine. We don’t have free will just until we make a decision; we have free will as long as we live.

Along with the limited salvation view, the early Calvinists wanted to limit a lot. Sola scriptura all the way. If it wasn’t in the Bible, it wasn’t done. This included the number of sacraments, the order of church service, and what types of music, art, or dance was allowed (not much). From this came some of the early American founders, whose strict rules and strong work ethic still affects American society. But something I never understood about the Puritans was, if God will save whomever He wants, and no one can resist or change that, what’s the point of having the rules, of working hard to be obedient, of arguing doctrine with others? Surely the elect would act properly without rules, and the un-chosen can go do awful things since God’s not giving them salvation anyway. Without free will, we don’t have to claim any responsibility. Every little detail was preordained by God. But wouldn’t that mean God inflicted us with violence, poverty, and hunger? I believe those are tragic outcomes from us using our free will to pursue sin. God allows us free will and its bad consequences, but He doesn’t inflict it upon helpless people who have no control over their lives.

There are some positives from Calvinism, though I’m inclined to think they are mostly secular. What is known as the Protestant work ethic, working longer and harder as a sign of moral character, still shapes the business world. In fact, capitalism’s rise owes a lot to the Reformers' work ethic and independence from authority. The idea of a representative church body is especially admirable. Presbyterians are called such because of the presbyteries, or ruling bodies made up elders and clergy to vote on church reforms. The highest authority, the General Assembly, has representatives from each presbytery, and makes decisions as a voting group. I got to participate as a youth representative for my denomination’s General Assembly. As a youth, I didn’t get to vote in the Assembly, but I was able to vote in the committee I was assigned to. The experience made me appreciate the democratic process and Robert’s rules of order. But I think over time, it has taken Presbyterianism further away from Calvinism than people realize. When the majority vote gets to decide on changes, there is no guarantee they are going to stay consistent with the original. I think that is why PCUSA recently allowed ordination of openly gay clergy; the members of General Assembly are products of their time, which will reflect social movements and prevalent opinions.

Again, it’s hard to give a number to people who adhere to Reformed theology. Recently, evangelical groups have started to adopt a “new Calvinism” theology, focused on God’s supreme control and the Bible as the only authority. PCUSA is the biggest Presbyterian church in America, with more than two million members. My cradle denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, has around 50,000 members.

[Presbyterians are oftened represented by the Celtic cross, which includes a neverending circle on the cross. Sometimes there are ornate patterns, which I suspect Calvin wouldn't have liked.]

Next Friday: Anabaptists

Friday, September 2, 2011

Religion Friday: Reformation Protestants

When I wrote about the Catholic Church, I mentioned how Christianity had once been outside of the institution (Roman Empire) but then became the institution. Skip ahead a few centuries, and the Church was a powerful force. With that, came some shady business dealings. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a Catholic priest in Germany, famously nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences to the church door. It mainly criticized the Church’s practice of selling clerical offices and selling indulgences, which are remissions for punishment. By selling these, the rich were essentially “buying their way into heaven.”

At first, Luther sought to end corrupt and hypocritical actions he saw in the Church, but as the Church continued to oppose him, he began to break further away. He gained support from German princes who opposed the Church’s political interference in their territories. Politically, this turned Europe upside down. Once unified in a religion, now there were Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists (more on them later). After years of rebellions and war, the Peace of Westphalia guaranteed rulers the right to determine their state’s religion and promised Christians whose denomination was not the state religion a right to practice their faith.

Of course, the break wasn’t all political. The further Lutherans distanced themselves from Catholics, the more theological differences also arose. Luther proposed that salvation came from grace alone (not grace and works). He also believed that the Bible was the only source of divine guidance, a theory called sola scriptura. These two ideas continue to form the basis of most Protestant beliefs. In the past few decades, sola scriptura has been taken to extreme; some believe the Bible to be completely literal and always right. But Luther only meant that the Bible be the only basis of Christian teachings instead of also relying on papal authority (including priests as mediators between man and God). I find this absolute literalism very risky, as the Bible was written by multiple men at various times, compiled by other men at later times, and translated numerous ways numerous times. That’s not to say the authors or translators weren’t divinely inspired and had the best of intentions, but I believe there has to be room to account for human err. The Bible is a guide that reflects the history of God’s relationship with His creation including the testimonies of men who witnessed Christ in the flesh on earth and worked to build the Church. However, reducing the faith to biblical literalism denies the different, transcendent, and sometimes subtle ways God speaks to us. It also limits learning from insights people have had beyond 99 A.D. It is a very narrow way to see a very wide God (cue “Deep and Wide” with hand motions).

Luther didn’t just pave the way for Protestants; he did succeed in some reforms to the Catholic Church as well. This is known as the Counter-Reformation. As a response to the rise of Protestantism, the Church established seminaries for the proper training of clerics and began a stronger focus on the spiritual (rather than political). There was a rise in mysticism around this time as people strived to transcend the political turmoil and find a true relationship with God. I think this shows the good that can sometimes arise from very ugly, messy situations.

So what about today? Mainstream Protestants (usually considered to be Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and Episcopalians) tend to be more progressive than other Protestant groups. They focus on inclusion and social justice causes. The Episcopalian, PCUSA and some Methodists even ordain open homosexuals, which has caused further splits among denominations. There is not much I can say generally about mainstream Protestants, however, because the one thing about Protestants is, each church is individual. Each denomination is different in many theological points, and sometimes even individual churches within a denomination hold different views.

There were many good things that came from the Reformation: less corruption, more focus on personal spiritual relationships, scripture in the vernacular so people could read it for themselves. However, I find the many divisions sad. If someone takes issue with what his church is teaching, he can just go start his own church. He doesn’t have to consider that the church might be right and that he just doesn’t like it, or that the church isn’t right and needs a reformer and serious reevaluation. There is a lack of accountability. When you read about the early Church, the churches are always greeting one another and holding each congregation accountable for its actions. Back then, it was a necessity to be united and accountable for a small, new faith to survive. But isn't that also true now? Instead of being one faith, Christianity has become a mix of various interpretations loosely connected by our trust in Christ. I think we would all be stronger and better witnesses if we could only agree on a unified foundation instead of using religion as a social and political tool.

[Most Protestants see crucifixes and icons as idolatrous and thus use the basic cross. It’s not clear Luther actually nailed the 95 Theses to the church door, but the story persists that way, probably because it makes the situation seem more rebellious.]

I found this chart on Wikipedia. I think it shows the branches of Protestantism in a pretty clear way. Vertically, it shows the degree of the reform, from most radical on top, to minimal (basically just leaving the Pope) on bottom.

Next Friday: Calvinism