I have been teaching at the church I serve about “The Truth of God” in our Truth seekers class/Bible Study.Primarily I’ve been pondering the questions: What is God’s truth?Who has access to God’s truth? Who wants to hinder the dissemination of God’s truth? And how can we experience God’s truth in our lives?
I have to admit, this study has been interesting. Mainly, we have been discovering the basics: God is spirit-not a man or male, the Bible is a collection of books not a heavenly facsilime, there are at least (3) creation stories, Malachi 3 was written to the priests and not to the people, Paul had no idea he was writing to the Church throughout all time and if he had he prolly would have written differently, and Jesus never said he was God, though we believe by faith that he is ! You know, the basics (lol).
Some people have cried, some have been confused, and others have been convicted.However mostly over these weeks I have been amazed at how many people come up to me after and say “I’ve been a part of the ‘church’ for a long time, why has no one ever told me this?” Or they say “I’m so angry that I didn’t find this out earlier in my life, things could have been so different.” And then there are those that simply say, “Thank You.”
Honestly, when I hear comments like these, it makes ministry worth it all.I’ve never been interested in the glitz and glamour, smoke and mirror type ministry that many pursue these days.My heart has always been to help lead people into deeper truth about God, the world, and themselves and I believe this is at the heart of God because truth is God.And where God’s truth is, there is truly Freedom, which for me is the core of the gospel—making people free to be who they really are in God.That’s good news!!
But the divine truth is not always pleasant or easy to hear; in fact most times it’s not.So that’s why it takes courage to teach God’s truth because it might cost you. Lately, I’ve been getting more opportunities to share hard truths about God’s church in the world with Christians in Atlanta and I’m grateful and encouraged.Telling people that churches are often oppressive, manipulating, perpetuators of falsehood and dissenters of truth (though not in these exact words) is not easy.But I’ve got good news, PEOPLE ARE LISTENING!
One great example of this fact came from a mentor and friend of mine, Professor of Hebrew Bible at the ITC, Rev. Dr. Randall C. Bailey.For those that know Doc or have read his stuff, you know he is a true Religious Intellectual freedom fighter to his core!And he preaches and teaches the truth of God as he understands it, in season and out of season—even when I’ve seen people get up and walk out or get plain indignant, he keeps telling it like it is.However, occasionally I’ve seen people see the divine truth in his message and be liberated and its a beautiful thing.This happened recently, while he was ministering in South Africa.Below I have posted the message he wrote about the experience.
I think this is good news for progressive Christians who wrestle with what it means to share God’s truth in foreign lands. Enjoy
Compassionately and critically yours, Billy Michael Honor
“Today I preached in Atteridgeville, RSA, one of the townships outside Pretoria. My friend, Takatso Mofokeng, arranged for me to preach there two Sundays ago and they asked that I come back, which I did today.
I preached on Acts 8:26-40 and called the sermon, "Being Hi-Jacked". I dealt with the centrality of Ancient Africa to the Bible and the way this story authenticates the Gospel by the African/Ethiopian accepting it. But the story gets hi-jacked by modern English translation omitting v. 37, where he makes his profession of faith. I also talked about how he gets hi-jacked by not finding any stories in the text of what happens once he returns home. All that is replaced by Paul rushing to the white folks of Europe to bring them into the fold. I also, as I laid out the plot of Acts 1-8 mentioned how the women are hi-jacked by the Apostles electing another man to replace Judas and then choosing 7 men and no women as deacons.
After the sermon, Takatso did a summary in Tsawane, and then the people sang three songs. Then one of the elders of the church arose and said, "In my 74 years, I have never heard that Africa was central and we don't have to follow the ways of white Christians. And he is right, the women have been hi-jacked. Look at all the women in the church today and the men keep the leadership positions."
I began to cry, for seldom do I get a lay person taking the floor and claiming how the word proclaimed touched his core. It was worth all that I have gone through in my ministry to experience that moment today."
Okay, I have no valid excuse for my blogging absence the last five months except BAD time management. I could ramble on about how I’ve been busy with school, church, and living but that would not be worth the time it took to write it. All I can say is I must do better. If not for any other reason than my own mental health, I need to muse critically and reflectively about all the things that cognitively, emotionally, and spiritually burden me on a day to day basis. Moreover, on a collective level, many of my friends (some of whom read this blog) have challenged me to take a more aggressively public stance on the issues of our day. I am both humbled and encouraged by this challenge. I truly believe that if the world is going to become a better place it’s going to have to start with everyday people like you and I lending our voices to the struggle.
Over the course of my blog hiatus one of the things I have been doing is working on an Advanced Studies Masters degree at Emory in Theology and Ethics. During this time I have encountered some brilliant people and made some great new friends. But the highlight of my time has been studying the life and thought of the late Howard Thurman. If you’ve never heard of or read Thurman’s writing, let me just say, YOU NEED TO. Especially those interested in spirituality and social change. To state it simply, Thurman was a genius of peculiar caliber; a true modern day “Mystic Prophet” to use Professor Luther Smith’s words.
For me, Thurman’s work is essential because it helps me to grapple with the inadequate nature of all religious language and systems of thought, and as a result frees me up to place the emphasis on the religious experience itself. In other words, the encounter of my being with the Source of all being becomes the primary fact of religion, in oppose to certain religious doctrines, creeds, and theologies being the basis of religion. For Thurman, the encounter of God and self is of utmost importance, and this encounter requires much interrogation.
This brings me back to where I started this post, with ‘the need for personal and communal critical religious reflection.’ I think this type of reflection is what is lacking from most contemporary preaching, teaching, and ministerial practice. And no one helps us to see that more than Howard Thurman.
I think this brief clip of Thurman will accentuate my point, Compassionately and Critically yours, Billy Michael Honor Jr.