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Peter T Chattaway

Hipster Christianity

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mrmando wrote:

: If, as Bethke says repeats what he heard Mark Driscoll say, religion is man's attempt to reach God, and Christianity is God's attempt to reach man . . .

Bah. That motto hardly started with Mark Driscoll. I think I first came across it in a Christian Archie comic back in the '70s or early '80s.

Why does an idea being in/from a comic book invalidate or diminish the idea? I often wonder if religion is to being a Christian what aesthetics is to being an artist.

Joe

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It's on the Internet. Of course it's nutty.

Speaking of nutty, check this out while you can. I am expecting MH lawyers to be all over Matthew Paul Turner very soon for unauthorized use of the MH logo. I do not wish to suggest that church discipline is a bad idea, but is this the form it should take?

Well. It's surely off. It seems very impersonal to me. Like they are dealing with an "issue" instead of a human being. If somebody needs healing and restoration, then they need graceful help in sorting out the issues in their life, not a big public fuss with contracts ect. Of course maybe there was some graceful help that wasn't mentioned.

Some of the comments below the article are interesting.

My issue was just what it said….why would he have to sign a list of sins that he had already repented and been forgiven for? What about the forgiveness and casting away of sins…as far as the East is from the West? There is nowhere in the Bible that Jesus made someone attend meetings, counseling sessions, and then sign a contract with all sins listed for many others to see and approve or sign. And where do they keep the signed contracts? Is there a special file cabinet with all the congregational sins in it? How do they know that the janitor doesn’t go in there and thumb through them on his break, for fun?

I’m wondering if the girl underwent Church Discipline as well…

I also found this part to be kind of interesting. It shows how thinking that's a little off can lead to more bad thinking. Some of these slightly warped views of male and female relationships can have consequences.

According to Andrew, at Mars Hill, the cliche “it takes two to tango” isn’t true. Why? Because Pastor Mark teaches that women are “weaker vessels,” and therefore, when a girl and boy engage in consensual sexual activity, it is always assumed that it’s the man’s fault because he failed to lead the woman (or “weaker vessel”) toward righteousness. (And everybody knows that women can’t find righteousness unless a man leads her there. Ugh.)

Also the whole contract idea, kind of fits in with the marriage vow contract, concept. There seems to be a lot of contracts there

Edited by Attica

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Why does an idea being in/from a comic book invalidate or diminish the idea?

Well, not all comic books are created equal. This is Archie we're talking about.

I often wonder if religion is to being a Christian what aesthetics is to being an artist.

I don't know. Are there a significant number of artists who say things like "I don't give a rip about aesthetics, I just like to paint"?

You could say religion : being a Christian :: music theory : being a musician. There are wonderful musicians in almost every genre who can't read a lick of music; don't understand theory, scales, or arpeggios; and can grasp only the rudiments of harmony ... yet all those elements are still present in the music they play.

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I don't know. Are there a significant number of artists who say things like "I don't give a rip about aesthetics, I just like to paint"?

You could say religion : being a Christian :: music theory : being a musician. There are wonderful musicians in almost every genre who can't read a lick of music; don't understand theory, scales, or arpeggios; and can grasp only the rudiments of harmony ... yet all those elements are still present in the music they play.

Aesthetics, as in the philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste. As I heard one person put it, aesthetics is to artists what ornithology is to birds. So, your point about music theory:musician is comparable, I think. Chet Baker had to ask what note to start on when he played with other musicians. Was he a musician? HTTY.

So I lean with the folks who tend to believe that, while religion (and by extrapolation theology, doctrine, and denomination) is important and even helpful, it isn't necessary to being a Christian.

Does that make me a hipster?

Joe

edit to add: While there probably are artists who say they don't give a rip about aesthetics, I do think many don't give it a thought.

Edited by jfutral

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mrmando wrote:

: You could say religion : being a Christian :: music theory : being a musician. There are wonderful musicians in almost every genre who can't read a lick of music; don't understand theory, scales, or arpeggios; and can grasp only the rudiments of harmony ... yet all those elements are still present in the music they play.

Change "religion" to "theology", and I like this analogy. But if religion is seen as actual religious PRACTICE, then it is closer to the actual PLAYING of music.

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Aesthetics, as in the philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste. As I heard one person put it, aesthetics is to artists what ornithology is to birds.

Well, in that case, I think it doesn't follow that aesthetics : artists :: religion : Christians. I think perhaps "religion" and "religious studies" are getting confused here.

A good ear-trained musician follows many of the rules and principles of music theory without being aware of them. A good reading-trained musician observes those rules and principles because she is aware of them. A not-so-good reading-trained musician just follows the little black dots, and leaves the rules and principles up to the composer.

The best, most capable, most versatile musicians have a well-developed ear in addition to the ability to read music and understand rules and principles.

Add in the premise that music theory : musicians :: religion : Christians, and the resulting metaphors map out pretty well, methinks. But you don't have to be a musicologist (academic study ABOUT music) to be a musician or improve your musicianship, just as you needn't be an aesthetician to paint or fluent in Ancient Near East languages to be a Christian.

----

A useful working definition of "religion" could be "the things we do to respond to God's love and maintain a relationship with him." I think the dichotomy between "relationship" and "religion" is largely artificial. If we insist on preserving that dichotomy, then we're forced to make oxymoronic statements such as "I pray, but I'm not religious. I partake in rituals imbued with supernatural meaning and purpose, but I'm not religious. I use hermeneutics to interpret sacred texts, even if I won't admit to doing so, but I'm not religious."

Change "religion" to "theology", and I like this analogy. But if religion is seen as actual religious PRACTICE, then it is closer to the actual PLAYING of music.

That is a useful distinction, and it corresponds, I think, to the definition of "religion" that I just posted.

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The reason I prefer to think about religion in terms of aesthetics, is that just like aesthetes often find themselves arguing about what is real beauty or what should be defined as art, so to do I find the religious mired in the same discussions, particularly about about Christianity. So while it is good to think about religion as a set of practices we do to respond to God's love and maintain a relationship with him, I am more inclined to think of religion as ascribing a _particular_ set of practices, much like the Roger Scrutons of the world.

Then there is the art that exists regardless of the proclamations of the aesthetes or the theory of aesthetics.

But I am cool with how you guys turned music into a parallel for religion, too. I like the definitions and distinctions. It certainly allows for the artist to be without the need to understand the aesthetics that may or may not describe what they are doing or creating. Similarly it seems to allow for someone to be a Christian without being part of a particular Christian religion.

Although I am still unclear how either definition or distinction differs from the Archie comic/Driscoll/Bethke quote.

Joe

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The reason I prefer to think about religion in terms of aesthetics, is that just like aesthetes often find themselves arguing about what is real beauty or what should be defined as art, so to do I find the religious mired in the same discussions, particularly about about Christianity.

Ah, but an argument about X should not be mistaken for X itself.

So while it is good to think about religion as a set of practices we do to respond to God's love and maintain a relationship with him, I am more inclined to think of religion as ascribing a _particular_ set of practices, much like the Roger Scrutons of the world.

Sure, and different religions will prescribe different sets of practices. A Christian might maintain that his church's practices are the most efficacious ones; a universalist might maintain that all practices are equally efficacious.

It certainly allows for the artist to be without the need to understand the aesthetics that may or may not describe what they are doing or creating.

Right. but of course one who neither does nor creates is not an artist, no matter how much he insists that he is; and one who does or creates is, in that sense, an artist, whether or not she wishes to be called one.

Similarly it seems to allow for someone to be a Christian without being part of a particular Christian religion.

Big "yeah but" on the way from Peter here.

Although I am still unclear how either definition or distinction differs from the Archie comic/Driscoll/Bethke quote.

Archie says, "Veronica, I want a relationship with you, but I don't want to make any commitments or live up to any expectations you might have, or respond to any demands you might make, because I don't want people to think I would let a girl push me around." When that doesn't work, he tries the same line on God.

Seriously, the Archie dichotomy is simply a matter of defining "religion" in a particular way, so that by "religion" we mean only hypocrisy, legalism, empty piety, and so forth. Then we can say that since Christianity, properly understood, is opposed to all of those things, Christianity is not a "religion," it's a "relationship," as if there were no way it could be both.

The rest of Christianity and the rest of the world does not accept this definition of "religion" as the correct one; we argue for a more generous definition that says yes, Christianity is a relationship, but religion is the conversation that allows the relationship to exist.

The only non-Christians who would accept Archie's definition of "religion" are people who've had a bad experience with religion and have decided that all religions are pretty much worthless. In theory, I suppose you could get folks like that to reconsider Christianity by saying, "I agree with you about religion, but here's why I think Christianity is not a religion!" In practice, I don't know how well it really works. An acquaintance of Peter's aptly called this a "semantic shell game."

You know, people who think Jesus came to abolish religion should read Mt. 23:1-3a:

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you."

Wait a minute ... hey ... hold on ... did Jesus really say that?

Yes. He did.

Of course he went on to say:

"But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."

So Jesus did not equate religion with hypocrisy. Rather, he did quite the opposite. He pointed out the difference between them.

To give credit where it's due, one of the hosts on the Catholic Answers radio program mentioned that passage today. Not my usual drive-time entertainment, but I'm glad I was listening.

Edited by mrmando

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----

A useful working definition of "religion" could be "the things we do to respond to God's love and maintain a relationship with him.'

That largely works for me. Maybe at the risk of being too nitpicky, I'd say. "the things we do to respond to God's love and walk into the fullness of union/relationship with him.' I wonder if even people who are not Christians have a certain relationship with God, even if they don't know it. By this I mean that God is active to a certain degree in their lives, "It rains on the just and the unjust", and Holy Spirit is working bring all people to Christ. Even if people don't have a relationship with God, I think it could be argued that God has a certain relationship with them.

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It's on the Internet. Of course it's nutty.

Speaking of nutty, check this out while you can. I am expecting MH lawyers to be all over Matthew Paul Turner very soon for unauthorized use of the MH logo. I do not wish to suggest that church discipline is a bad idea, but is this the form it should take?

Wow.... the follow up.

Once again some interesting thoughts in the comments section.

So in Matthew 18, Jesus tells us to treat those under church discipline like tax collectors. And he shows us how to treat tax collectors by inviting them to be his disciples, by eating with them, by loving them just the same.

I kind of felt Matthew 18 didn’t really apply here anyway. I mean, it says, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you…”

This wasn’t something he needed pointed out. He admitted to it, was remorseful and asked for help.

I sit here in stunned silence, thinking this sort of thing only happened in the circles I used to run in… Not only is this controlling and unscriptural, but worthy of a slander/defamation of character lawsuit… I’ve seen it done before, and successfully, too!

Didn’t Andrew show that he was taking responsibility–being accountable, working through repentance–by his month of meetings? This is not repentance and accountability, but abuse.

Edited by Attica

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The reason I prefer to think about religion in terms of aesthetics, is that just like aesthetes often find themselves arguing about what is real beauty or what should be defined as art, so to do I find the religious mired in the same discussions, particularly about about Christianity.

Ah, but an argument about X should not be mistaken for X itself.

But that is the problem I have with much Christian religion. Some are mistaking the argument for what they are arguing about. They are much more concerned with creating a defensible position than just being a Christian. They are Roger Scruton arguing that only classical forms are beautiful and worth being called art.

To venture away from the aesthetics argument and be a bit more postmodern, to a certain degree, the systems created to support the arts are more important than the art they were created to support.

Joe

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It's on the Internet. Of course it's nutty.

Speaking of nutty, check this out while you can. I am expecting MH lawyers to be all over Matthew Paul Turner very soon for unauthorized use of the MH logo. I do not wish to suggest that church discipline is a bad idea, but is this the form it should take?

Wow.... the follow up.

This is being discussed now on the Internet Monk blog (among many, many other places).

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/mpt-posts-on-church-discipline

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It certainly allows for the artist to be without the need to understand the aesthetics that may or may not describe what they are doing or creating.

Right. but of course one who neither does nor creates is not an artist, no matter how much he insists that he is; and one who does or creates is, in that sense, an artist, whether or not she wishes to be called one.

And an artist is an artist whether they know what an artist is or not.

I'm kind of less concerned about a non-Christian who has had a bad experience with religion than I am about a Christian who has had a bad experience with religion, although the end results are usually pretty similar. The non-Chrstian is usually not trying to make any pretense about being a Christian. What I mean is, if the non-Christian is sincerely searching to connect and have a relationship with God, the bad experience with religion or _a_ religion won't stop the search, just probably reframe the search. Obviously depending on the experience and what point of need is driving the search.

But if a Christian has a bad experience, especially with the religious practices they have adopted to have that relationship, it can be faith shattering.

Even if you say that religious practices are simply the conversation that allows the relationship, then what is the pipe? (Sorry, reference to the painting "This is not a pipe") What is the religion? The relationship? Or the means to the relationship?

We may say we can't have one without the other, but then why is it we seem so intent on making such a big deal about the means? You say:

"A useful working definition of "religion" could be "the things we do to respond to God's love and maintain a relationship with him." I think the dichotomy between "relationship" and "religion" is largely artificial."

But that in itself somewhat perpetuates the dichotomy. The things we do to respond to God's love is not itself love. The religion, in this definition (and I like this definition, mind you) may be the expression of that love/relationship, but it is not the love/relationship itself. I show my love for my daughter. I show my love for my wife. But my love is not that showing. My love prompts and urges the acts, but it is not the acts. Those acts those religious practices can even exist without love urging them. The acts don't define the love, the love defines the acts.

Joe

Edited by jfutral

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The acts don't define the love, the love defines the acts.

Precisely. It comes down to motivation. Am I responding to God out of a desire for self-justification? Then my motives are wrong and my religion is false. Am I responding out of love and gratitude? Then it's more likely that my religion is true. Without getting too personal, this exactly has been my lifelong struggle, coming as I do from a legalistic, near-fundamentalist background. To return to another example given by Jesus, the Pharisee and the tax collector performed the exact same religious action: prayer. It was their motives, and the content of their prayers, that set them apart.

Edited by mrmando

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So in Matthew 18, Jesus tells us to treat those under church discipline like tax collectors. And he shows us how to treat tax collectors by inviting them to be his disciples, by eating with them, by loving them just the same.

I'm not sure this clever bit of prooftexting would pass the scholarly sniff test, but it's pretty brilliant on its own terms! However, I think someone else noted that the parable of the unmerciful servant, which is all about forgiveness, comes right after the church discipline passage in Mt. 18.

The church discipline process at MH didn't seem at all redemptive or restorative; nor did it seem to provide, for the poor chap being disciplined, any sense of what his penance would accomplish.

Edited by mrmando

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And if we are to treat the disciplined as a tax collector, and we use Jesus and how he treated tax collectors as the example of how to treat a tax collector, where does that leave us? Didn't he hang out with the tax collectors?

Joe

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"Hang out with"? No.

Offer redemptive grace to, as an essential part of his ministry, to the point of inviting one of them to be his disciple? Yes.

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So in Matthew 18, Jesus tells us to treat those under church discipline like tax collectors. And he shows us how to treat tax collectors by inviting them to be his disciples, by eating with them, by loving them just the same.

I'm not sure this clever bit of prooftexting would pass the scholarly sniff test, but it's pretty brilliant on its own terms! However, I think someone else noted that the parable of the unmerciful servant, which is all about forgiveness, comes right after the church discipline passage in Mt. 18.

The church discipline process at MH didn't seem at all redemptive or restorative; nor did it seem to provide, for the poor chap being disciplined, any sense of what his penance would accomplish.

Yeah I had thought something similar about that Matthew 18, and how it all comes down to the context of how it was spoken. I just thought I would throw it up here because it did strike me as a fascinating comment.

Another thing I was thinking about the church's discipline process, is that it doesn't really leave much room for the restoration to happen naturally, in it's own time (or maybe better God's timing). I mean sometimes working through various issues, especially dealing with the hurts caused to others, and also caused by them, can take years for people with the help of God's spirit working to sort it all out. This idea of just going up to people and repenting isn't always that simple.

They seem to be trying to solve a problem that is very relational, between the person and himself, the person and God, and the person and those who were hurt........ into something that is more or less formula. Not to mention all of the other possible aspects to the situation. Like for instance, maybe some people need to repent to Andrew, because they saw what was happening, or about to happen, and didn't help him in it...... or possibly even encouraged him in it.

Who knows, maybe the fiance was originally the instigator and he was trying to pull back.

See that leads to something that people commenting on this do not seem to be touching on...... all of this response by the church isn't just bringing pain, condemnation, and shame on to Andrew, but I would suspect also his fiance, and those close to her. I mean it's all publically set up against Andrew, but the public that is involved in this knows darn well who the fiance is, and she basically did all of the same things that Andrew is accused of, being the original covering up of what they were doing, ect. Anybody that stops and thinks about the issue can see that she, although more behind the scenes, would be observing the whole fiasco, knowing, that people are connecting Andrew to her in their understanding of this.

Plus another big problem with the situation is that a couple who was preparing for marriage, has broken apart through him surely going to far with another girl.... but not "all of the way". Their relationship is probably not beyond restoration, but there is no indication that this is a large part of the Church's agenda.

Edited by Attica

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"Hang out with"? No.

Offer redemptive grace to, as an essential part of his ministry, to the point of inviting one of them to be his disciple? Yes.

Well. He did eat with sinners, and in those days, in that culture, having a meal with someone was pretty significant and accepting. But hanging out with in the sense of enabling their sin, Um, not likely. Although Jesus did turn water into wine at a Jewish wedding feast where in all likelyhood there were some people who would have had a little to much of the drink. I mean, I know the liquour content of their wine wasn't as much as ours is...... but people could have just drank that much more.

Edited by Attica

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"Hang out with"? No.

Offer redemptive grace to, as an essential part of his ministry, to the point of inviting one of them to be his disciple? Yes.

Well. He did eat with sinners, and in those days, in that culture, having a meal with someone was pretty significant and accepting. But hanging out with in the sense of enabling their sin, Um, not likely. Although Jesus did turn water into wine at a Jewish wedding feast where in all likelyhood there were some people who would have had a little to much of the drink. I mean, I know the liquour content of their wine wasn't as much as ours is...... but people could have just drank that much more.

I'm afraid to ask what you guys think hangin' out means or what you think I mean by hangin' out. But if someone is not ditchin' me, I'm not ditchin' them. I don't see how in the world anyone can be restored or asked to follow someone sans relationship. And if anyone thinks that's what 'church discipline' means, they can keep their church and their discipline and good luck with that. I'll just go hang out at Johnny's Cafe or Denny's instead. (HT to days LONG gone by)

Joe

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Bonus points for Johnny's Cafe!

To me, "hanging out" implies leisure time, and I think the time Jesus spent reaching out to sinners was far too important to be categorized as a mere leisure activity.

I've also heard people try to extend the metaphor even beyond Johnny's Cafe ... to suggest that Jesus would frequent the red light district, or go to bars ... just to find sinners to hang out with. Many Christian ministries today are doing just that. And if that's what they need to do in order to find sinners, then more power to 'em. But ...

The "hung out with sinners" meme comes almost entirely from Jesus' dinner at Matthew's house, which appears in all three of the Synoptics (Mk. 2, Mt. 9, Lk. 5). If we read the texts carefully, we see that Jesus didn't have to go seek out sinners ... rather, they came to Matthew's house to seek him out. Mark even says the tax collectors and sinners were among Jesus' followers.

So if we have to hunt sinners down in order to hang out with them, rather than being able to make sinners want to hang out with us ... is there something Jesus knew or did that we are not knowing or doing?

He did eat with sinners, and in those days, in that culture, having a meal with someone was pretty significant and accepting.

FWIW, he also ate with a Pharisee (Luke 7).

Edited by mrmando

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I have some further thoughts on this issue here, for those interested: http://t.co/p6dJ0br2

Wow. Thanks very much for sharing.

So ... um ... you all know that before he got involved with Pixar, Brad Bird made a wonderful animated kids' movie called The Iron Giant. But what's on my mind right now is The Giant Irony.

Doesn't abusive, nonredemptive, unforgiving church discipline look a lot like "religion" in the worst, pejorative, Archie Comics/Jeff Bethke sense of the term?

If your pastor constantly preaches against "religion," but your church has that kind of discipline policy, can you really trust that the pastor knows the difference between "religion" and Christianity?

And if Jesus came to abolish "religion" ... where might you suggest that he begin?

Edited by mrmando

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I have some further thoughts on this issue here, for those interested: http://t.co/p6dJ0br2

Wow. Thanks very much for sharing.

So ... um ... you all know that before he got involved with Pixar, Brad Bird made a wonderful animated kids' movie called The Iron Giant. But what's on my mind right now is The Giant Irony.

Doesn't abusive, nonredemptive, unforgiving church discipline look a lot like "religion" in the worst, pejorative, Archie Comics/Jeff Bethke sense of the term?

If your pastor constantly preaches against "religion," but your church has that kind of discipline policy, can you really trust that the pastor knows the difference between "religion" and Christianity?

And if Jesus came to abolish "religion" ... where might you suggest that he begin?

I agree Stephen. That was a very good article and I enjoyed reading about your journey described in it. To my mind it's a journey out of darkness. :)

mrmando, what your saying here is some good stuff. I'd say that when someone doesn't understand how gracious and merciful God's character is they might change the forms of their Christianity, to what they consider a "non religious" form...... but the core problem is still there.

Edited by Attica

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"Hang out with"? No.

Offer redemptive grace to, as an essential part of his ministry, to the point of inviting one of them to be his disciple? Yes.

Well. He did eat with sinners, and in those days, in that culture, having a meal with someone was pretty significant and accepting. But hanging out with in the sense of enabling their sin, Um, not likely. Although Jesus did turn water into wine at a Jewish wedding feast where in all likelyhood there were some people who would have had a little to much of the drink. I mean, I know the liquour content of their wine wasn't as much as ours is...... but people could have just drank that much more.

I'm afraid to ask what you guys think hangin' out means or what you think I mean by hangin' out. But if someone is not ditchin' me, I'm not ditchin' them. I don't see how in the world anyone can be restored or asked to follow someone sans relationship. And if anyone thinks that's what 'church discipline' means, they can keep their church and their discipline and good luck with that. I'll just go hang out at Johnny's Cafe or Denny's instead. (HT to days LONG gone by)

Joe

I agree with what your saying in principle about not ditchin' people, but sometimes there is a time to move on. It's all about healthy boundaries, in which parameters are different with each person. An example which fits in with my understanding of hanging out.... I've gone to blues bars ect. and had a beer with my friends one time I even ended up talking about Christ, but I'm certainly not going to go have a beer with someone who is struggling with alcoholism. I have some old High School friends who like to smoke pot, who I hang out and chat with on various different occassion, and have a great time with, but I'm probably not going to hang out with them when they smoke joints and watch movies in their house.

Your absolutely right though that people cannot be impacted without relationship. I've observed the concept of shunning where it has even gone farther than this. Ya know shunning a Christian because they wear jeans and not dresses, or wear makeup, or dance. It can get really nuts, and it's dark. I have friends who have grown up in this kind of crap, and I can tell you for certain that they've all had to go through some sort of healing.

Edited by Attica

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