Tag Archives: theology

Christianity is Not a White Western Religion

I read this article at “Red Letter Christians” with the title by the same name as this post. You can read that article here.  Is it me or does anyone else essentially read this:

A.  White Western religion = White Christianity bad.

B.  Black religion =good.

There really is no reason given as to why this assumption is there and I’m sure that is not the point of the article.  However, it is a main staple of Red Letter Christians throughout their writings.  Here are a few negatives about white religion that are sited in the article.

“But through my activity in church, I felt that people were trying to mold me into this Western white culture – even in the Black church.”

 “But there was still this tension between Western culture, biblical culture, and my culture as a person of African descent.”  “Western culture” should be interpreted as white culture.

“This made me see my reality in the Gospel much more so than the average evangelical. I listened to Focus on the Family and Charles Stanley, but I struggled to integrate their form of Christianity into my everyday life.  These guys are considered, conservative white male Christian religion.  Nothing is ever stated as to how much of what we see in black churches is really not authentically African either.  And what were some of the aspects that you could integrate?  Seems like absolutely nothing of value can come from such Christians?

“If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.”

“It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.”

“But as more Greeks and Romans converted, and Christianity became the religion of the empire, it got watered down and separated from its Hebrew roots. Greeks and Romans were white.  Definitely not black.

“Either we will have a Christianity that is Western or we will have a Christianity based on the truth of the Bible”

“When you separate it from its roots, the whitewashed Western, and often American, version hurts everyone, including white people.”

Now for the positive statements of black religion.

“I also always loved to read and learn about Black history. I read Malcolm X and Dr. King…”

“At Penn State, I took an African American religious studies class where we read God of the Oppressed by James Cone. I reread it again that summer. I began to see the Bible in my reality.”  Apparently, black literature by certain black authors is cool.  In fact, so cool, that it was read over again.

“I’m the founder of Prophetic Whirlwind, an organization that provides Bible study materials and educates via social media, lectures, and workshops on the African roots of the Christian and Jewish faiths. This is a huge passion of mine.”  I guess that’s a positive thing?  That Christianity and Jewish faiths are rooted in African roots?  Well, when you compare it or contrast it next to white religion.

“Until 1869, Israel was connected to Egypt – connected to all of Africa. It was only when the Suez Canal was completed that Israel became separated from Africa. Even until the early 1900s, Israel was referred to as NE Africa.”

“The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.”  This is important and it’s positive because, well, you don’t see this in white Christianity or White Western culture with it’s high individualism right?  Listen, there can be blind-spots in any culture. Why not talk about Asian societies with their culture of shame for example.  Simon Chan talks about this in his book, “Spiritual Theology.”

“It’s even more powerful to understand the cultural roots of our Biblical mothers and fathers. Mark was the Father of the Gospel in Africa. The Last Supper and Pentecost took place at his mother’s house, and she was an African Jewish woman from Cyrene. They were refugees. Do immigrants know this today? Do Black sisters and brothers know this today? This is incredibly empowering if we know these stories.”  Here we see an almost complete contrast to western religion.  This is one HELLUVA positive statement.  This is not all that bad, as making the Bible relevant to someone is a good thing.

“Then there was a large reverse exodus from Israel back to Egypt in Biblical times. The two landmasses were connected, they looked the same, and had similar climates. When Mark and his mother needed to leave Israel, they went to North Africa. It was a place a lot of Jews went. Thomas Oden is a researcher from Eastern University, and his research opened my eyes. Mark was born in Africa, and died in Africa. St. Augustine was African, his mother Monica was African, and when she died, she told St. Augustine to carry her bones back to Africa.”  So Africa is the jam man.  Interestingly, when you get down to it, the continent of Africa is not uniform either and so one might want to ask what group is she is referring to as being so closely biblical?  That is, which group represents Christianity the closest?

“This is significant as Biblical prophecy states that when these tribes begin to come back to the Torah, the Messiah will return. Many researchers, especially from the Jewish faith, travel around the world, like Indiana Jones traveling for the lost ark, looking for these tribes. And research shows that many of these tribes are in Africa.”  Hmmm…it may be significant for Onleilove to talk about what the researchers are saying about those tribes but she also used the word, “many” (“many of those tribes”) which is to say that some of those tribes weren’t of African descent?

Interestingly, there was a statement that is most revealing in this article.  Onleilove says:

The whole world opened up to me and revealed items that are important to Black Christians, and Christians in general. We have really separated Christianity from the Hebrew faith. But early believers continued to practice Passover and Sabbath. In Hebrew culture, salvation is about everyone – the entire community – not just the individual. This is the norm in African culture.

It’s important to understand that the Bible is a multi-cultural book. My work is about reconciling Jesus to his culture – his Hebrew culture. If you’re trying to understand Christianity in a Western context, you’ll be lost.

It’s so important for Christians to connect to the Hebrew roots of their faith, because otherwise out faith becomes disconnected, becomes Westernized and makes whiteness an idol.

If it is the case that black Christians and Christians in general need to return back to their Hebrew faith then why talk about all the positives of black religion as if it is not in need of redemption.  Here.  I’ll say it like this.  Richard Mouw one time spoke about the arts being in need of redemption.  He was referring to the pop cultural art (low brow), yes, but he was also referring to what is sometimes referred to as “high brow” art.  One gets the feeling, when reading Onleilove’s article contrasting white western Christianity and black religion that it is white religion that is in the real need of redemption.  Referring back to Simon Chan’s book, even black religion would be in need of redemption because as with all societies, there is a separation between “doctrine” from “the living God”–orthodoxy and orthopraxis.

 

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Does God Love Satan?

My buddy Tom Belt has brought up this question once again that we discussed on the old Open Theism Discussion Boards. Really, I wince every time I see pictures or quotes or hear songs of this dual between Lucifer and Jesus where Lucifer is depicted as being “defeated” in some sense that leaves us saying, “Yeah! Go Jesus! Screw you Satan!” (remember Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil?” Or Carmen’s “The Champion?”). Well, these are the sorts of questions that my Bible school did not ask nor equip me to answer. I am so thankful for guys like Tom Belt and my friend Dwayne Polk and my acquaintance Greg Boyd. They’ve asked these questions taking us to the logical end of such questions I think. And of course, that is what good theology does. There is certainly nothing wrong with coming up with different models and “concluding” which one you think fits the criteria better and makes the most “sense” (of course there are different ways to understand this ie., something may make logical sense but may be morally askew.

So does God love Satan? Well, yes, I believe God does love Satan and the reasons why, as we discussed are:

A. The theological injunction to love our enemies.
B. God is still sustaining Satan and God loves what he/she sustains. Which is also to say that there is something left TO love. It isn’t as if Satan is totally hopeless in an ontological sense where there is not a shed of anything good in him ie., not pure evil through and through.
C. Satan, as a creature of God, comes from God in a metaphysical sense, thus, as with all creation, will return back to God and that metaphysical aspect, I think, in large part, is what is meant by there being good in Satan.


Popular Religion, Victoria Osteen And Why It’s Not All That Bad

There has been a video of Victoria Osteen floating around on the internet this past week or so which has received quite a bit of flack from many evangelical Christians for it’s shoddy theology. You can see that video and a more favorable response here .

Years ago, I read Richard Mouw’s book, Consulting the Faithful: What Intellectuals Can Learn From Popular Religion .

It had a great impact on me, challenging me to be more charitable and less suspicious of popular religion by trying to see below the surface to understand “the hopes and fears” of the average lay person. I’ve been surprised via searching out and reading alternative views such as Brent White’s above at how much I/we as a community of Christians don’t see or deliberately ignore opposing views just so we can sulk and criticize and be bitter about the “state of the Church” in general.

But let’s face it folks. Folk religion, popular religion or whatever you want to call it is here to stay. Let’s face the fact this thing called “popular religion” could possibly be one way that God is using to bring folks into a deeper relationship with himself. Let’s face the fact that popular religion, because not everyone is an intellectual, is the way many folk relate to God (thinking of the mentality challenged here). Let’s face the fact that there may be some GOLD nugget(s) that we can glean from. It could be said that when Franky Schaeffer wrote, “Addicted to Mediocrity,” though this brought to the fore the critical “state of evangelicalism,” it did not help in terms of understanding the laity and many of the sentiments which drive their form of worship and by which they “live and move and have their being.”

Mind you, while I will probably not attend an Osteen service myself, as I’m past much of that sort of theology, (though I would never count out attending for other purposes ie., praise and worship where that, it seems, is most untouched by popular theology, at least one can praise God where the praise, though probably simple, can still be heart felt and not wrapped up in struggles of Billy Cosby sentiments), I really don’t blame others for doing so as this is where they meet God at. I’ll say it like this. Mouw uses the analogy of “puppy love.” That’s a good place to start for relationships but it can’t carry those relationships through the long haul and the topsy-turvy storms that relationships eventually bring. Our relationship with God begins some where on some level.

Now one might say, “Ahh…but those people have been going to that church for years and they are none the farther theologically.” The problem with such criticism is the way one is viewing personal piety and church attendance. How do you KNOW many of these folks are not theological giants? How do you know WHY they are attending such services? As I said, I could attend because I like the music aspect of the service though I’m barely able to sit through the preaching. I may attend because I have good friends whom I’ve developed deep relationships with. I may attend because I am accepted and that is all I needed at the time.

At the end of the day:

A. I don’t think any of us has “correct” theology (though this is not to say that we should neglect studying theology, after all, professors and teachers, are gifts to the body as well).
B. There are many different reasons for why people attend church and God meets us where we’re at. My church attendance isn’t all about having correct theology but an encounter with the Divine.

So. While **I** probably wouldn’t attend certain churches for shallow theology, (I definitely see that not all is negative–there is SOMETHING that can be redeemed), people attend for various reasons and I trust God, through the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth.


Salvation of the Whole and Justice for All

From Chapter Twelve of Greg Boyd’s book, “Benefit of the Doubt.”

“The Cross-Centered Kingdom
An Invitation without Clutter
In an earlier chapter I noted that the way to know what a person or people group really believes is not to ask them but to watch. Christians frequently say, “It’s all about Jesus,” but our actions betray us. Judging by the amount of time, energy, and emotion that many put into fighting a multitude of battles, ranging from the defense of the literalness and inerrancy of the Bible to the war against gay marriage or universal health care, one easily gets the impression that Christianity is about a lot of different, equally important, things.”

This is probably the one thing that irritates me the most in Greg’s writings but also in some discussions between online friends, myself and Greg on the Open Theism Discussion Boards that we participated in years ago. His ethics–especially as it gets closer to the street level. Isn’t it interesting that this is a dig at the “Christian Right” or their issues? But if we were to bring up things like how best to help the poor or issues like war, I may definitely not get the same “dig.”

Now, Greg might say something like this would apply to both the right and the left and that would be fair enough in terms of the point about it all being about Jesus. However, when Greg speaks in this manner (mentioning these specific examples) he essentially betrays His political leanings. But more than this, he shows his anabaptist hand when it comes to politics in general. As if THIS is how evangelicals SHOULD do politics. In other words, it is not so much his political leanings but rather when he says: “Judging by the amount of time, energy, and emotion that many put into fighting a multitude of battles…” For Greg, it is all about God’s love. That we are made for that love. We are to reflect that love back to God, thereby participating in the triune Godhead but we are also to reflect it towards each other. Thus, these battles will be on the back burner.

I want to parse this out a bit though and say that as important as that is (which nothing can be more important than loving God), it is not robust ENOUGH. Let’s look at three political positions and then work from there.

A. Christians going with a merging of the Church and state. In other words, you can go from the extreme Dominion Theology, Kingdom Now, Reconstruction type theology to the more conservative Religious Right (as well as the Left, though generally it is the Right) in which Christians will attempt to bring the Bible to bear on society. This will be every thing from trying to implement actual biblical laws into modern day society to weaker or blander versions such basing particular laws on “biblical principles” ie., the Religious Right/Left, ie., Pat Robertson, James Dobson to Jim Wallis types.
B. Christians will not become involved with politics in the same sense mentioned above. They will generally be removed from it for two main reasons–eschatology or pietistic reasons. For the first it’s kinda like saying, “What use is there in rearranging the furniture on the Titanic when it’s going down? Let’s concentrate on saving souls.” The latter is more what Greg would hold to. He would say that one should not be involved in politics because it is “power over” and not “power under” as “quintessentially expressed on the cross.” In other words, we don’t force or coerce people to obey our Christian ethics. It’s not to say that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics and try to influence from without. It is only to say that we should not be forcing others to follow Christian ethics via making laws that would do so. Without getting into full fledged post on this point, I will say not only do I think this is confused but IT IS basically a position that is held to and practiced on the basis of scripture. That is, even though it is not like option A above it is still a position informed by scripture.
C. Lastly, there is the position that I hold to which doesn’t go with either A or B though it is still informed by scripture and has a long history within the Church. Catholics call it “subsidarity” and Reformers call it, “sphere sovereignty.” Though there are major differences between the two sides, the idea is that God has called the state or authorities (it’s not necessary to say which form of authority is derived from God) just as he has called other aspects of civil life into being, ie., schools, hospitals, families, churches, libraries, banks, etc, and given them authority.

Now, given that God has called these different spheres into being, this means that God has called them to be responsible. He has given them a responsibility to carry out their authority, doing that for which they are called for.

[As an aside, I realize that there are some objections to this of which I won’t respond to in this post ie., how is civil society called into being when it is that which humans make? Is a particular form of authority legitmate? If not, how is it called into being by God? What makes this particular form of authority legitimate over another form? Suffice to say, I’m simply noting that civil society is something that God ultimately brings about and, regardless, each sphere is still to be responsible for it’s own authority as opposed to another ie., a police authority is not a family. A family is not a police authority, etc.]

So, one may ask, “What does this have to do with what Greg is saying?” Let’s look at these in this order:

A. First, Greg looks at salvation in a pietistic fashion. He basically follows the ‘ol, “Let’s save souls and that is how we’ll change a nation” argument. Isn’t that basically what he is saying when social issues are secondary to the “pure gospel” which is loving God first? Gay marriage is second to loving God? Universal health care is less important than loving God? I submit that that there is a false dichotomy here. Salvation is definitely about loving God yes. But loving God is not intangible. It has to be worked out in the concrete. Frankly, there is no such thing as loving God outside the concrete. Salvation will also include this world. It will include saving this souls but also being concerned about someone’s health for example.
B. Second, (and of course this is related to the first), if salvation is about the “whole of human life” then it will be concerned about institutions such as marriage. If God has called these different spheres into existence, then God is concerned for justice done to them. And if that is the case, then justice will insure they have the room to carry out their responsibilities before God whom gives them these responsibilities in the first place. And in order to do that, each one of these spheres needs to be differentiated. A family is not a government. A government is not a library. A library is not a hospital. A hospital is not a church. A church is not a military and so forth.

So what we end up with here is where Greg will say, that we should do justice in the world (which he doesn’t connect to salvation, for the most part, though he gives hints to it in early writings ie., God at War) but is apparently oblivious of the connections to the bigger salvific picture.

Big point here: If I’m going to be concerned about justice not only will I see it in connection with salvation of the whole but I will see all spheres equally. In other words, I won’t simply be concerned about same sex marriage MORE THAN education. I will be concerned about justice for both. I won’t be concerned about abortion more than say, the poor or ensuring that we have regulations in place for which we can sustain life as a whole. I will be concerned about both. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, we may prioritize, say, life issues over same sex marriage, but we will still be concerned about justice for all based on the idea of a “principled pluralism” outlined above which is based on a theology that God creates, gives some authority over to his creatures and expects them to be responsible with that talent he has given them.


Certainty? Or Confidence.

I just finished reading Greg Boyd’s newest book, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty

There are pros and cons to the book and hopefully, I can unpack and parse out some more in a future blog after I’m done reading Lesslie Newbigin’s book, A Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship as I want to compare both. So in short itinerary fashion I will just point out both the positives and negatives I find in the book.

Pros:
A. Instrumental in showing how doubt actually works in the life of faith and is not actually an enemy of faith. Greg does this via an autobiographical sketch of his marriage to his wife Shelly.
B. Shows problems of a particular approach to the scriptures–what Greg calls, “The house of cards” analogy. You build a structure out of cards. If you pull just one card out, the whole house falls. So for Greg, our faith should not depend on this approach to the Bible. I think some Catholics would take some issues with this with their belief that God encapsulated the Gospel message in writing and guaranteed it in such away that it would not lead us astray but bring us to saving faith. Which just so happens to be through the Church a historical reality. For Greg, the Bible confirms his faith in Jesus. Though, the problem with what Greg is saying, of which not only one person has pointed out, is that the place you learn about and have faith in Jesus is FROM the Bible! So there seems to be this sort of, “Which came first? The Chicken or the egg?” thingy going on. I think there is something to be said for both approaches and it starts off with the existence of God. That is, if there IS a God and that God sought out writing and language as a means to communicate with us (this all starts out on an existential basis, without the guarantee that we have an accurate Bible) then he could have guaranteed that message was accurate and now that we have the Bible, we are very much dependent on it to substantiate our faith in Christ. This is not to say that “pagan saints” of the Old Testament as Pinnock referred to them were not worshipping the true God. But God revealed himself clearly enough even back then, such that people were not to worship false gods and he did see fit, even then, to write some demands down as well. But the thing is that we DO have the Bible NOW and the work of the Holy Spirit has finished the canonization process, though questions of how many and which books belong in that canon is a question I won’t respond to now other than saying that whether you believe, as Protestants do, that we have everything we need in the 66 books of the Protestant Bible or the extra books which are found in the Catholic Bible, eitherway, we surround ourselves around those 66 books and so that book ( The Bible) is vitally important for our faith.

Cons:
A. Greg’s “cruciformed hermeneutic.” Greg wants to say that the cross is the quintessential expression of God’s love for us. That that looks different from the ugly portraits of God in the Old Testament. He wants to say that we really don’t see this loving God in the genocide narratives. Though they may be exaggerated and use hyperbole, I don’t agree that those judgments, if they did indeed occurred were any less loving. There is continuity as well as discontinuity between the Testaments and judgment is one of the continuous motifs. No where else, do we see “innocence” being crushed than in Jesus on the cross. Is 53:10
B. I tend to note a pious thread in Greg’s work in part because, well he’s anabaptist and so even here it is no different. For Greg would want us to talk all about what really matters and that is Jesus. Social issues aren’t as important and are especially dangerous if talking about these things hinders someone’s faith. Greg doesn’t like the “package deal” Christianity. Let’s face it though. You can’t really speak about Christ without speaking about HOW to faithfully serve him. Sure, I get it. One doesn’t need to speak about gay marriage and accept traditional marriage POLITICALLY to be a Christian. Sure, I can accept that. And because Christians have bought into the “packaged deal” Christianity, many in the world want nothing to do with religion. But it isn’t all the Christians fault. Any time Christians say, “Jesus is the way, the truth and the life” there are going to be some who bulk at that sort of confidence.

I want to end this with a couple of quotes from Greg’s book toward the very end of the book. Greg wants to feel confident about his existential experience with Jesus for he says:

“In these moments, I wonder to myself if I might be engaging in wishful thinking. It’s a perfectly reasonable suspicion. If the suspicion persists, I simply step back and reexamine the question I’ve explored so many times before: Why do I believe what I believe? Doubt isn’t a problem that needs to be overcome; it’s an invitation that needs to be explored. It is not the enemy of faith, but a friend. In any case, as I now bring this book to a close, I trust it is clear why my feelings of certainty or doubt are completely irrelevant to my faith walk, so long as I continue to remain confident enough that Jesus is the supreme revelation of God that I’m willing to commit to living my life as if this belief is true.”

And later on down:

“In fact, as people throughout the ages have discovered, I feel the closer I grow to Christ, the more fine-tuned my awareness of my sin becomes. I am acutely aware of how much of my moment-by-moment thinking and living is actually more reflective of a person who lives as though it were not true that Christ is Lord—what Paul calls living in “the flesh.” And this intensifying awareness consistently brings me back to my foundational trust in the character of God, revealed on Calvary. I am always brought back to my need to trust that God’s love is infinitely greater than my sin. So I offer up my sin, receive his forgiveness, and bask in his loving embrace. And as I behold the beauty of his magnanimous, relentless, unfathomable love and grace, flowing from Calvary, I am transformed “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18 ESV). Though I don’t consistently manifest it, I know that I am, by the grace of God, a child of God. And as John so beautifully puts it, while I can’t imagine how I will appear when God has completed his gracious work in me, I know I shall “see him as he is,” for I “shall be like him” (1 John 3:1-3).

Correction: I don’t actually know this. I can’t be certain. But I’m confident enough to live as if it’s true, with the confident hope that it’s true, and with a profound longing for the glorious day when, I trust, it will be proved to be true.”

From my perspective, I really don’t know, how, in these post modern times, one can get away from the allergic response (bulking at) at this sort of confidence.


So What Is It? Pride? Or Low Self-Esteem?

Reading an interesting book right now. Sin, Pride and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology and Psychology–by Terry Cooper. It concern’s a question of the human condition. Is our problem pride or low self esteem/self loathing. Is the problem that people think too highly of themselves or is that a cover for low self esteem? If say, you are in counselling, sure you may be temporarily down on yourself. But once your life is back to normal, pride will take over again. However, according to some, pride is a symptom not the primary problem.

So which is it?

The “pride” and “self-acceptance” are overall general models. So “inherent sinfulness” would be the overall model covering those two sub-categories to some degree. Thus, for the author, the question of the complexity of these two sub-categories is what he is working out in his book. For example, what is the self acceptance model? Well, what is the difference between self-love and selfishness? Are these two the exact opposite of each other? Could the person who is selfish love himself not too much but actually too little? That is, could said person have a lack of care for themselves which leaves them empty and frustrated and so they “snatch from life the satisfactions which they block themselves from attaining?” One might appear to care too much for themselves but in actuality be, an unsuccessful attempt, covering up and compensating for a failure to care for one’s true self. Truth be told, I think of some of Jesus’ last words, “Forgive them father for they know not what they do” in this context. Were those who nailed him to the cross being prideful or was that covering some deep seated inadequacy or inadequacies? Or what about Martin Luther King who suggested that his enemies, “prideful” as they were, were also in need of being set free.

Interesting stuff. Gotta keep on reading.


The Church As A Garden: A Metaphor And Some Practical Advice

Roger Olson has a great blog concerning all of the different interpretations within evangelicalism here. The e-mailer he refers to in his blog sees this as problematic. Personally, I welcome this state of affairs.

Anyone who is aware of James K.A. Smith’s work would recognize that he wrote specifically about this state of affairs in his book, “The Fall of the Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic” where he speaks of truth not as being uniform but rather pluriform. This has been talked about for years now by folks like Robert Brow, here.

If it is the case that there ARE serious differences within Christianity in general, I would still agree with Goldingay who says that Christians have much more in common than they do differences. But this commonality also means something else. It seems that a lot of Christian, when they speak about “the church” (usually some sort of negative criticism) they speak about it monolithically. This happens mostly among evangelical Protestant types. And so, all, Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox are bunched together to form a single whole and then the church is criticized for having a blind spot here or there or what have you.

When this happens, I see this as having a “thin” theology and not a “thick” one (to borrow from either Mirsolav Volf or McGrath, I can’t remember). By that I mean that there are distinctives between the different branches of Christianity plus distinctives WITHIN the branches themselves so as to result in different schools of thought, denominations, etc. That is, they are thick enough such that there are deep theological/philosophical roots to these differences, not differences that are not that important. This is why I would refer to the Body of Christ as a garden. There are roses, daisies, orchids, tulips, iris’ and so forth. This is God’s desire. So one flower or set of flowers in God’s garden can’t say to another flower or set of flowers, “We don’t need you” or “You don’t belong here.” That’s God’s business not yours or mine and He’ll sort out who belongs in the garden and who doesn’t.

That being the case, I get more than a little perturbed when someone from one tradition bemoans what is going on in another tradition because:

A. They are not a part of the particular tradition they are at odds with (which is probably why they are in another tradition altogether anyway). It’s really a family feud, not an outsider’s.
B. Each tradition should be allowed to exist without criticism. What I mean by that is
i) NOT that I can never look at another tradition and say, “I don’t agree with that.”
ii) What I mean is that I can look at that tradition and say, “I don’t agree with that but that is _____ tradition.” and fill in the blank with whatever particular tradition you may be referring to.

So there are a couple of things to say about the individual and (their relationship to) particular religious traditions.

A. I would say that it is not so much a case of, “Hey, why all the differences?” as much as it is a case of jumping into the deep end of a particular tradition. That is, in large part, find out why a particular tradition does what it does–teaches what it teaches. You just may find out that things can get pretty complex. Commit yourself to a particular tradition while being open to the idea that you don’t have the corner of truth on theology. That you may have something to learn and possibly change your position (no matter how strongly felt) on from/concerning another tradition. In other words, it is faith seeking understanding (which pretty much means growing in a pietistic faith not mere head knowledge). At the end of the day, you are responsible for your faith. You stand before God and are responsible for why you believe and practice what you do.
B. When you realize that there are “thick” differences between traditions, that is cause to be a little more understanding than offering some possible misdirected complaint about said tradition. Each one will be allowed to exist in the world without your shoving the so-called, “dirty laundry” before an unbelieving world. I put dirty laundry in quotes because many times what is perceived as “Christian Culture” and what doesn’t belong to “truth faith” is actually an outworking of a deep theological understanding of faith. It allows you to recognize the differences for what they are and that fellow Christians can live out the Gospel (as they perceive it), in different yet refreshing ways.