Sunday, June 30, 2013

Should Christians Fight Gay Marriage?

Recently, The Defense of Marriage Act was repealed by the Supreme Court, the result of which allows married gay couples to act as any other married couple, and makes discrimination based on their marriage partners illegal. The celebrations have been continuing since the announcement, but of course here in Oklahoma, the announcement was met with plenty of ultra-conservative backlash. The Governor of Oklahoma made a statement that she still believes in "one man, one woman" marriages. Unfortunately, it is an arena such that any comments from our Governor falls void, since she herself is not known for 'traditional' marriage, if you exclude divorce and infidelity in your definition of 'traditional'.

One must be totally ethnocentric to believe that their beliefs should be imposed on everyone else. I understand that some religious folks believe that the Bible is actually the word of God, and so they believe by enforcing and fighting for biblical laws to become Government enforced laws, that they are siding with God over their Government. The problem with such enforcement of a 'biblical' extraction is that these laws are hand picked from a book full of laws, and some are either unenforceable or cruel and barbaric to enforce. If one wishes to enforce the laws of the Bible, then why are they ignoring the rules they don't want to follow, and then attempting to enforce other laws that they do follow?

Deuteronomy 22:11 says "Thou shalt not wear a garmet of diver sorts, as of woollen and linen together." Wouldn't it be ridiculous to see a line of church protesters in the mall outside of Macy's with signs saying "Stop Blending Wool and Linen!" and "No Cotton/Cashmere Sweaters! Deut 22:11!"? Or what if there was a group lobbying for the death penalty for those who work on the Sabbath, adhering to the scripture in Exodus 31:15 which says "whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death."?  Unfortunately, there is no difference between the silliness of these scenarios and the issue at hand today. I think if you are arguing for the following of a specific law that applies to a certain group of people, then you are omitting them from the grace of God. Salvation through Jesus is supposed to belong to everybody. Jesus himself broke a few of the Old Testament laws, like working on the sabbath, yet he remained 'sinless'. Maybe there are factors in this 'sin', or 'separation from God' that are more important than just literal Old Testament law.
I think straight people often miss the realization that gay people do not always think a whole lot differently than they do. Often there are gay couples that have been together in a monogamous relationship with each other for their whole life since their meeting, and have no interest in being with anyone else. There are plenty of gay people who disapprove of the 'promiscuous' behavior of some gay people, and are sickened by homosexual prostitution every bit as much as a straight person may be disgusted by 'straight' prostitutes. It is also notable that some babies, and not such a small number, are sometimes born with both parts, male and female, and the gender is usually a decision made by the doctor, and sometimes the family. It is hard to imagine that sexuality can always be perfectly in line with the physical body. I think people's sexual energies can be different than what we perceive of them by their outer appearance. And for that reason, I think we should stay away from judging people for their adult choices, and treat all people as you know Jesus would treat them, with love, grace and respectfulness.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Have We Lived Before?

My wife, Amy, is a vintage clothing dealer. Very soon after I met her, I began to find the joys of thrift store and estate sale shopping, and learned how to find just what your looking for in them. When we make our shopping trips and stops, it usually takes her a while to look through all of the women's clothes, so I have plenty of time to pull out my fine toothed comb for my own shopping. One of the things I am most interested in are books, especially older ones. Recently, I came across an estate sale that had a mountain of unique and interesting spiritual type books, and I picked up the one pictured above. It is called "Have We Lived Before?" and it is by Ernest C. Wilson. The title page says "Unity School of Christianity, Kansas City 6, MO. 1946". The book actually appeared first in 1936 as cloth/deluxe editions, so the writing in this book dates back about 76 years. My research on the school led me to The Unity Church, which of course now is not quite the same as it was years ago, but I understand their beliefs to be mostly similar. I approached the theology they teach using the "Muhammad Ali" approach (shown on my first blog post, "Did God Write The Bible?"), in which all religions hold some truths. I found many points to agree with them and the book on, and I believe that the 'denomination' or 'religion' does hold truths, but I also find points that I don't agree with them on. I do know that reincarnation is believed by many practitioners of Judaism, and if Jesus was born Jewish and so familiar with the religion and holy texts, then he might have made statement that pertains to this idea of reincarnation.

Reincarnation is one that I have interest in mostly because of, oddly, other people's experiences that I have known. Myself, I have never felt any type of past life regression, although I have had abundant 'deja vu' experiences. Without my own personal proof, the next closest thing would be an experience of someone I know well enough to make a safe judgement about the validity of the person's story. The main proof of this type that I have is an account of my wife's brother, who actually had clear pre-birth memories since being very young. He remembered being told that he had to come back once more. He remembered feeling reluctant, and at first told them he wouldn't. They continued to suggest this to him, and the minute he started to agree with their plan for him, he was here on earth, inside the womb. He always remembered that he was here for a return trip, and because of these memories, he couldn't bear to let himself lie, or steal, or do any wrongdoing hardly at all. I believe he did remember being a soul before entering his body, and allowed himself to come back to this earth for God's purpose. He died one of the most peaceful, incredible deaths you could imagine. The room was filled with greeters of pure spirit, and I could feel the 'crowding' of the room with these spirit beings. Because of this man's life stories, that I have witness and experienced, my interest in the subject has been accelerated.

This book begins with some personal accounts and stories that offer some proof that certain people have visited the earth before. One of them I think I may have heard before, maybe from an old T.V. show like "That's Incredible" or something. But they are written clearly and are very interesting. After the personal accounts, it goes into some biblical references to back up this idea of reincarnation. It also discusses how some scripture leads them to believe that certain people in the Bible reincarnated into others that Bible readers are familiar with. The book also spends some time with the notion that Jesus was reincarnated. It was probably the only part of the book I had trouble following, or agreeing with. The book's Biblical references about specific people's reincarnations did not persuade me to agree with their interpretation. However, the verses given in the book to show the idea of reincarnation being prevalent in the Bible are fairly persuading. In Proverbs 8:22-31, as the book quotes, the verses clearly show that Solomon evidently believed that he existed before his birth, in fact stating he was a being during creation! That is, I find, quite a bold statement, and could be colorful exaggeration used in the dialect of the period. Another scripture is one in Revelations, 3:12. It is thought by the author that verses in which Jesus states "him that overcometh" will become a "pillar in the temple of my God", and that "he shall go no more out", suggests that the one that overcometh had gone back out (to the earth) before, but will not go again, because he has overcome death.

Another explanation of some of these Biblical references I had trouble understanding in the above book appear on a website called "Near Death". An interesting scripture is found in Matthew 11:13-14 where Jesus identified John the Baptist as the reincarnation of Elijah the prophet. It says "For all the prophets and the law have prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come." The context of these verses seem to be true to this interpretation. It is even restated later in Matthew 17 that John was Elijah reincarnated. This scripture was also talked about in the book "Have We Lived Before", but this website made the interpretation easier to comprehend for me. I like their website a lot. The layout on the site is easy to use even though it contains mass links and information. Their arguments are well calculated and displayed in an easy to follow fashion. I would suggest anyone interested in near death experiences or past life information to scour this website and make use of it's enormous database.

I liked reading "Have We Lived Before", especially the personal accounts, and philosophy. This book does spend quite a bit of time on philosophy and symbolic interpretation, which is something I do enjoy reading. I dug deep into the discussions in this book and found the pages very thought provoking. I think my answer to the question above would be, "probably". It is possible that, even if the above were true, this could be a persons 'first trip' to this earthly dimension. I am not sure if I would interpret the above scriptures in exactly the way the Unity School of Christianity does, but I certainly do not throw out or demonize their ideas. I am glad to have been blessed with the openness of mind to assimilate and possibly integrate beliefs that come from my exploration of experiences of others. I believe we are all here for one another, and rather than becoming offended by our differences of opinion, we should learn from them, celebrate them, and each other.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Is Obama The Antichrist?

I would like to think that no matter how ridiculous a subject may be, that I can still make impartial observations and assimilate information fairly. Unfortunately, mainstream news has failed us and people have to refer to other resources to gather information about important events. However anyone who is familiar with scanning sources such as YouTube knows that misinformation can be just as easily accessed on such a  format. Just recently someone spliced up an episode of "Family Guy" in order to make it look like the show predicted the Boston Marathon bombing, and then posted it on YouTube.

One video subject that is trending right now, so typically, is the belief by some that President Obama is the antichrist. Of course they have said this about almost every US President since Ford, so legitimacy has already been trampled on. But I have examined many of these videos, and I would like to address a few of the overall points that some are making about end times Bible prophecy and Obama being the antichrist.

First I would note that a lot of these videos, not unlike the perpetrator of the Family Guy video, conveniently cut and paste clips to fit their story. Several that are on YouTube now show a clip of Obama being called the antichrist by a heckler in the audience, before being swept away by security. The part that they cut out was that, while the heckler was being dragged away, he was shouting "Jesus is Lord". Obama then says at least 3 times "I agree with him, Jesus is Lord." Not a very useful clip to the agenda when taken in full context.

Next, lets get down to the Biblical talking points that some of the YouTubers are using as proof that Obama is the antichrist. The one that I see them spending the most time on is concerning Luke 10:18 where Jesus says, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven". These videos semi-accurately state that the original Hebrew words that Jesus would have used are "Baraq" for lightning, and "Bamah" for heavens or heights. The video then concludes that there should be an 'o' between the two words so Jesus would have said, in Hebrew, I beheld Satan as Baraq O Bamah. If you want to check this information out, it will be easy for you to search for, so I won't get specific. But the two words lightning and heavens are separated by two words "fall" and "from", which might have interrupted the sounding of Barack Obama's name. Another problem here is the conjunction represented by the 'o' is the sounding of Hebrew word "waw". It is true that 'waw' is a conjunction, but it actually translates as "and". The word "and" would not fit into the scripture in this way, so I don't believe there should be an 'o' sound in between the words. Now this information does not completely disprove that Jesus might have said in this scripture "Satan" and "baraq o bamah" in such a way. But another problem here is that The Bible tells us that the antichrist's name is supposed to represent 666, and not one video has shown how Obama's name would fit into this code. Also, Satan is not the antichrist, so that would also make the attempt at such a translation inaccurate.

Finally, there are a lot of antichrist descriptions in Revelations that they say Obama has fulfilled. After shuffling through them several times I have found them all to be too vague to offer any real proof. The popular right-wing Christian extremist viewpoint is that Obama's receptiveness to other religions makes him a Muslim, and therefore, must be evil, hate America and show irrefutable proof that he is indeed the antichrist. I can't possibly cover all of the things that are wrong with this current position, but you can research "Christian Zionism" if you are interested in how these beliefs were created by the evangelical and political extreme right.

So, until the next President is elected, I believe I have offered enough evidence to calm those that are on the fence about when the return of Christ might happen. Those that wish to hate Islam, Obama and anything they do not understand are probably not going to be swayed by any proof that lines up against what they wish to believe. Personally, I just think that Obama is a very small part of the problem in America, and my biggest issue with him is that he has done nothing to oppose the status quo politics that he pretends to fight against. That doesn't necessarily mean that he is evil, or a perpetrator of all things wrong in America today. He just doesn't seem to have the leadership qualities to stand against things that he knows to be wrong and detrimental to America's growth.

I can understand that Christians anxiously await Christ's return, and will always be open to and looking for clues of the Revelations. But I think often we go searching for things and invent them in the process. The Bible tells us that when Jesus returns, every eye shall see and every knee shall bow. So, if one believes in the Bible, then there is absolutely no fear that we will somehow miss it. There is also scripture that says that we may know the season of his return. So I believe that, even without our vigorous searching for clues, it will be quite evident to us that the end times are coming quickly, when we are finally, truly close to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Do angels really exist?

This post is going to have a heapin' helpin' of personal experience wrapped up into it. In fact, this is one of those subjects I should make a "personal proofs" video for because I have so much personal evidence based on life experiences. First I'd like to make a list of the three biggest experiences I've had which lead me to believe in angels. Then I'll analyze the situation and the possible explanations for what happened in these events that was 'unexplainable'. Keep in mind all possible angles and causes of the experiences when reading these stories such as: reactions caused by coincidence, instincts, circumstance or 'angels'. Here are the stories in no particular order.

(A) My son was around 5 years old and we were driving down a road that was a five lane interstate, and very curvy. We were going around one of the many curves when my son did something that distracted me. I looked away from the road and he was crying about something. I was trying to figure out what it was, when suddenly I felt something push my hand that was on the steering wheel to the right. I looked over to see what it was and realized that I was into the oncoming lane, and my hand had been pushed over to get me straightened out with the lane I was supposed to be in. It felt just like someone pushed my arm to the right, and if it hadn't had straightened me out, there was a car coming from the other direction that I very well could have, or should have hit.

(B) I drove to a risky neighborhood to pick up my friend who was also the manager of the place I worked at. I wasn't exactly sure which house he said he was at, so I parked back a little ways from the house I thought he was in. While I sat there, something kept telling me to move. Pretty quickly I found myself just starting the car. Still not knowing why I was feeling this, I suddenly had the overwhelming need to drive forward. I began to pull forward, then I pulled forward a little more. Right then I saw my friend walking out into the street so I gassed the car and met him about 2 more houses down where he was. He jumped in the car and said, "Man, what was that guy doing?! Was that guy trying to gank (rob) you? He looked like he had a gun!". Evidently someone was trying to get into my car, and I somehow pulled forward just in time to get away from him.

(C) My son and I were driving on one of the tallest parts of the highway bridge system in Oklahoma City. We were driving a very light car, a Jeep-style vehicle made by Suzuki called a Samurai. I began to run out of gas and was driving kind of slow, and coming off a ramp from one highway to another. Suddenly I was stuck from behind, it was very loud and forceful. The impact pushed my lightweight car upward and I could see out of my drivers side window that we were going over the ledge. I could see the some 5 story drop that we were facing very clearly, but then my car somehow landed back on the road. I opened my door and got out of the car and these people were running over to me saying that they thought I had went over the edge of the highway and they thought I would be dead. The driver of the other vehicle, a large truck, was very drunk, and was arrested and taken in. I still don't know how my car landed on the road, and didn't go over the edge and kill both my son and I.

Now to analyze the possibilities of what it could have been that saved my life in these instances, and with an open mind. Just sheer intuition could possibly account for experience B. I was in a bad neighborhood and was already nervous. The only problem with that explanation is that I was being almost forced to do these things like starting the car and driving forward, at just the time that it was imperative that I did so. It was like an itch that hits you instantly and without thinking you reach over and start to scratch. Similarly, in experience A, though I was totally unaware of any immediate danger, I did not make the turning motion on the steering wheel, something else did. Because I felt something else push on my hand, I cannot call this 'instinct'. Now on experience C, I believe it is possible that I just luckily didn't go over the edge of the bridge. Maybe it just appeared as such, to myself and the onlookers, but then somehow the car had enough weight to bring itself down. Even though the Suzuki Samurai is the lightest car I've ever driven, and I could practically lift it by myself, this explanation is still very possible to be true.

Sometimes solid proof is only solid to yourself, and cannot be proven to anyone else, unless they have had that same experience. I think when people depend on science to prove everything for them, they are wrong. Personal experience is more proof than anything. Some people believe in things, like God or angels, because of their own experiences, and to me that holds more weight than scientific theories. When adding all of the other 'smaller' instances where I felt some sort of intervention had saved me from certain pain or distress, I have to qualify 'angels' as the most complete and logical explanation. Biblical scripture will also reveal many ideas and perspectives about angels. But I believe, pertaining to those beings whose love and attention are able to save a physical beings from physical danger, these 'angels' are above religious terms or qualifications for their acts of mercy, and can usually only be proven to oneself by those who's gracious acts it has affected directly.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Are demons real?

Before I started this blog, or the Righteous Metal blog, I did a series of video-blogs on YouTube called "Personal Proofs". The series is an honest outpouring of events that have happened in my life that lead me to where I stand in my ever-evolving beliefs. I plan to post them on here, so I'll start with this one. This is my most popular video I've posted in the series, over 1000 views. It's about an experience I had, at an early age, with a Ouija board and possible demon possession. I titled it, "Proof Of Demons", because I consider it a life experience that showed me that demons, or at least evil, was something real. Instead of providing a transcription, I'd rather people watch the video. Of course, comments are open and unrestricted, as usual. I would be interested to hear anyone's perspective.

I honestly do not know what it is that makes these pieces of wood with letters written on them such a portal for evil, or the small, heart shaped window piece. But I can say that since that experience, I have never touched another Ouija board again. I know there will be skeptics out there that have played with them and had no negative effects, and those who do not believe demons exist. Many times when we believe things that seem unordinary, we believe them because we have experienced something others have not. I know, because of my experience, that something else took over my babysitter's body that night, and the only way I have to purvey to others what that thing was that took him over, is to say that it was a demon. When there is the argument of the existence of evil, this is one thing that I can refer to within myself that shows me that there is a definite 'force of evil'. It is not the only thing in my life I have felt this kind of opposition toward, but it could be among the most common and accessible of all the dangers that could attack one's spiritual being.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Is there a hell?

As I have mentioned before, I was fortunate enough to go to some good churches when I was young. Most of my younger years that I spent in the church I was taught about God's love and grace, and about Jesus and his teachings. I did have an experience at a "hell-fire and brimstone" type revival, an interesting story which I shall save for another post. But probably the biggest culprit for introducing the doctrine of eternal hell fire into my belief system was TBN, The Trinity Broadcasting Network. 'Scare tactic' type preaching was fairly common on the Christian television station. All the talk about witches blessing rock-n-roll records to make them sell, demons sitting on a pile of Dungeons and Dragons books, and other sensationalism it seemed to center around, had me so afraid of hell and demons and sin than I lost concern about treating those around me as Jesus taught us to do. Its influence on my faith was pretty much all negative, and I may have never left behind all of my beliefs at one point like I did, had my opposition to evil and fear of hell not been acerbated by tele-evangelist media.

In the view of many of these types of TV evangelists, the effort to witness is all about saving the non-believers soul from eternal hell, and oddly does not emphasize the light that following Jesus sheds upon your life. I often feel that tracts and sermons sometimes emphasize the wrong reasons to follow Jesus, and that preachers give too much emphasis to "sin". It sometimes makes me wonder how different our views might be if our ambition to follow Jesus was centered around loving our neighbors, instead of the center being mans struggle to figure out every little thing that could be sin, and then training oneself not to do those things in order to avoid hell.
I was fortunate to have a very nice older Bible that included Hebrew and Greek word meanings in the sidebar. Something I noticed once while studying it really surprised me. I raised my eyes quite a bit when I saw the word "hell" translated from the original Hebrew word as "the grave", and in one place I remember it said "death of the spirit" for a certain passage. After seeing this I began to read the Bible differently, and used its provided tools to see a different picture of this faith. I later discovered the Christian group known as the 'Christian Universalists', and felt closer to their doctrines than I did any other branch of the religion. This group does an excellent job of extracting the real meanings of words used in The Bible that were translated into "hell", and they do not believe a place of eternal punishment exists. Because of my inquisitive personality, this sparked me to do some deep research of my own, from my own perspective, with my chosen resources. I have came up with some facts and ideas about what hell could or couldn't be that I will discuss here.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated into "hell" most often in the Old Testament is the word "Sheol", which is the land of the dead. The Greek word "Hades" is used in the Greek Old Testament translation for that term.

the Greek term "ᾅδης" (Hades) is used to translate the Hebrew term "שׁאול" (Sheol)(wiki)

However, the word "Hades" has a Greek mythology meaning too...

Hades (pron.: /ˈhdz/; from Greek ᾍδης (older form Ἀϝίδης), Hadēs, originally Ἅιδης, Haidēs or Άΐδης, Aidēs (Doric Ἀΐδας Aidas), meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive ᾍδου, Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead. (wiki)

It would seem from the translations that hell really should be "the grave" in many instances. But what about the burning "lake of fire" that non-believers must suffer in for eternity. Well, in Revelations, the Bible talks quite a bit about a "lake of fire". However, Rev 20:14 points out that "death and hell were cast into the lake of fire". So it would seem that the lake of fire and hell are not synonymous. There are also verses in Matthew I have heard preachers use that refer to casting into the outer darkness, where there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth". But neither of those verses in context have anything to say about a place of eternal punishment. The passages in The Bible that say "hell" do not seem to represent a place of punishment, but still there are other passages that may.

There are quite a few passages about judgement, and in one judgement Christ divides all the people of all the nations and divides them into two groups. The group on the left, according to the KJV, depart into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Now, first of all the greek word aionios translated to everlasting actually means an "age" of time, an indefinite amount, but not eternal because it does have a beginning and an end. Even still, here the passage is definitely stating that some people go with the devil and his angels into the "fire", and for an "age", or a certain amount of time. I think there could be plenty of discussion about what the "fire" is, but what I find most interesting about this is how the people are to be separated. Those on the right, which go into God's kingdom, are those who clothed and fed the poor and needy. Those on the left, which go with the devil and his angels, are those who rejected the poor and did not clothe or feed them, because if they did it unto the least of them, they have done it unto the Lord! It would seem this judgement is not so much about "sin", but about how those being judged treated the people around them, especially the poor and the sick.

Personal experience plays a big role in my belief system, and I do have some quite solid experience in this department. There are only two creditable witnesses that I know of or have heard of (from extremely creditable sources) who died and went to a "hell". Both atheists, both began to be surrounded and sucked down into a thick darkness, and then were pulled from it by Jesus, and then allowed to live a bit longer and straighten out their lives. It is interesting to me that, even though they didn't believe in him, he pulled them out of the darkness and gave them another chance. Fortunately, most of the afterlife experiences that I find creditable are not about darkness, they are about the light and love of God. Maybe it is a truth that the grace of God extends farther than we often think.

My conclusions about hell and afterlife, in retrospect, may not be so different than what is yelled about on some television shows. But I do hold to a belief that Jesus loves everyone, and will be there for us when we die. We may have a lot of answering to do, but I don't think that "the whole world is going to hell" necessarily. I often see much hope in the world, amidst all of the corruption of our leaders in politics and religion as well. I think the greatest witness one can make is to do good works, clothing the poor and feeding the hungry, all of those things that Jesus taught us to do. And by those works hopefully one can be a positive, living witness of what it means to "follow Jesus".

Friday, March 29, 2013

Do you have to be religious to follow Jesus?

I have been told, when I was younger, that the definition of Christian is "Christ-in", so I've always believed that anyone who has Jesus in their hearts is a Christian. Such a simplistic definition does allow for a wide range of people to be called "Christian". Through the church, we have been bombarded with religious images of Christ and other events in biblical history, and sometimes our own biblical studies, analysis and conclusions are marred by a preacher's rigid interpretation. The word "Christian" is now completely associated with this certain religion, and a certain set of viewpoints and affiliations. This presents a problem to me when someone asks me if I am a Christian, or what religion I am. The problem that I find in calling myself Christian is that the religion that the word currently associates with contrasts many of the things I believe about God, and Jesus Christ. For instance, I do not believe that The Bible is the "word of God", but I do believe the writings that we have available to us do hold many truths, and were inspired by the presence of God (I've already been over this in my other blog post). I do believe that religion itself does serve some spiritual purpose. But religion is something man made, and so it is imperfect and corruptible. Both the religion and its religious writings been manipulated to make money, control people and gain power. So in an effort not to be associated with the negative connotations of the word "Christian", I sometimes just call myself a "follower of Christ".

What would a person see in The Bible if one was to read it without any outside interpretation?! What if a person had only read the words of Jesus? Would he then be free of associating the Christ with a God in the Bible that is said to have killed, burned and banished people from their homelands on this earth? For a person who seeks Jesus by reading through scripture, praying and implementing the teachings of Jesus in his life, has that person joined a religion? No, this person has become a Christian in the purest sense of the word, and has received Jesus into his heart.

I remember a book now called "How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious" that I was introduced to in high school. I haven't read all of it, but the title alone said it all to me at the time. I like the book's description on Amazon too...

Since the days of the Early Church, Christians have struggled to find a way to be 'good'-to please God by their own efforts. They end up carrying a burden God never intended them to bear. And what's more, their brand of Christianity ends up looking like any other religion of the world-bound by joyless rules and rituals. Fritz Ridenour's study of the book of Romans provides an antidote to the pharisaical spirit and shows that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship. It is not man reaching up, but God reaching down. Every Christian can enjoy his or her birthright when they realize who they are in Christ. The result is a life full of hope, joy, power and potential.

My favorite line from this description is "Christianity is not a religion but a relationship". I feel that it is important to see that Jesus transcends religion, and that Jesus is not owned by Christians or any other religion. It is not required of a person to do all of the things that the church seeks of its members to have a relationship with him. Certainly a good fellowship can guide you to Jesus and along a path that increases the strength of your faith. But all too often, whether trying to help or not, religious leaders and common teachings become obstacles for a true understanding that comes from searching within. I have studied many different religions and philosophies. But my own personal journey led me away from religion, and back to Jesus. Actually Jesus never left me, and really that is why I still believe in him now.

So back to the original question. Do you have to be religious to follow Jesus? NO! In fact, I'd go as far as to say you can be a Christian without being religious. I do think a person can find a great fellowship to be a part of, can gain spiritual understanding through The Bible and live the life of a Christian with or without the Christian religion. But I do think that the fundamentalism of the current state of the religion "Christianity" has brought about an industry, this religion, that encourages actions that opposite of the teachings of Christ. So I think it is important for Christians to examine what they have been taught, weigh for themselves the truths presented to them, and to not be afraid to discard certain parts of the 'religion' that do not fit into your search for God, and do not represent the views of Christ.