April 1st, 2019

Dear Friends:

After much deliberation and talking with a proof texter,  I have decided to become a Biblical literalist. If the Bible says it, it must be true. Here’s a brief summary of some of the literal truths I now accept: the earth is 6,000 years old,  Adam and Eve lived with Dinosaurs, two of every animal boarded and lived aboard a single boat for forty days and nights, mass murder in the name of God to conquer any piece of land is OK, slavery is divinely ordained, and much more. All of these ideas, I’ve gleaned from my new King James Bible which I read and accept as the literal word of God, much like the Quran is the word of Allah dictated to Muhammad. Hopefully, my new position will make it easier for me and my evangelical sisters and brothers to be friends with our Islamic sisters and brothers. The benefits of being literalists are too numerous to count.   We have so much in common!

I also believe God is as much like me as I’m like him. God confirms all my biases, suppositions, and ideas. As a literalist, I know that God loves who I love and hates everything I hate. I never get challenged. God never challenges me.  This is the best religious experience of my life. Everything fits with what I already believe. Why did it take me so long to end up here? I know why. Those stupid progressives are messing it up for everybody, encouraging people to think for themselves, making people uncomfortable with rational thought and common sense. What would the church look like if we all applied ration and reason to our faith? Who knows, we might look more like Jesus. Can you believe that guy, boiling down the entire Old Testament (613 commandants) down to one? Love your neighbor as you love yourself. That’s a prescription for societal rot and communal decay. No sir, that’s not a religion I want to be part of anymore. I want that old time, washed in the blood, word for word religion. That’s why I’m now a literalist. If the Bible says it, it’s good enough for me.

Happy April 1, 2019,

Richard Lowell Bryant

Advertisements

If You’re Headed To General Conference: Appeals to Biblical Authority Are Meaningless

1. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and his sister.
2. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and his dead brother’s wife.
3. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and one woman and her servants.
4. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and his rape victim.
5. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and many women.
6. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and 700 women and 300 concubines.
7. The Bible endorses marriage between one man and one woman and her slaves.
8. The Bible endorses marriage between one soldier and his virgin prisoners.

All of the above are considered moral in the Bible. Does this mean United Methodists should condone these actions and cater them with pizza and cake in the fellowship hall? No, of course not.  However, same-sex marriage; that would be immoral and undermine the historic foundations of Christianity, Wesleyan theology, and western civilization.  I call bulls#$@$.

I can’t stand in a pulpit and support most of what the Bible deems as appropriate for marriage.  (I’ll tell you now, I will not officiate a ceremony for a man and his sister.  Nor will I marry a man and his rape victim.)  I won’t rationalize these texts, explain them away, or tell my congregation anything other than this: how the Bible talks about heterosexual marriage, as described above, is immoral, wrong, and disgusting.  The moment we cite the Bible as an authority on marriage it loses all influence on the institution of marriage.

How the United Methodist Church denies loving couples the right to marry is also immoral and wrong.  This denial has nothing to do with the Bible.  We’re using the Bible to dress up our dislike of other human beings.  That’s disgusting.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Things To Know When Visiting Our United Methodist Church

My Happy Face

1. You’re probably sitting in someone else’s seat.  Ask them to scoot.

2. We provide Bibles. If you bring your own, I’m guessing you’re a Baptist.

3. Turn your phone off.  I will ask to speak with whomever calls.

4. Today is Sunday. We do this every week about 11:00. Give or take.

5. We pray with our mouths, not with our hands.

6. It’s called a bulletin, not a pamphlet.

7. We have one bathroom. I clean it on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

8. Our communion bread is Hawaiian. You will love it.

9. If your ferry departs at 12:30, you can leave before the Benediction.

10. We’re glad you’re here.  This is my happy face.

Richard Lowell Bryant

Confessions of a 44 year old Still United and Still Methodist Curmudgeon

I like to read from my Harper Collins NRSV Study Bible.  I’m pro-NRSV.  I’ll tell you this.  You’ll never find a themed NRSV translation such as the Beaver Hunting, SideCar Racing, Goat Riding, American Idol, Lacrosse Coaching, Pet Grooming NRSV devotional Bible.  You’ll never locate one.  They don’t make them.  Why?  Bibles ought to be Bibles, not lifestyle accessories.   I’m old enough to remember when people knew that instinctively.

I don’t have a cover on my iPad.  Why would I put one on my Bible?

I don’t like to read hymn lyrics off the wall.  If you’re my optometrist and a worship leader who uses song lyrics to test my failing vision, I’ll make an exception.  Otherwise, pick up a book. Books built western civilization.  Do you know where we read about people who wrote on walls (i.e. cave painters)?  In books.

Jesus didn’t use tiny plastic shot glasses. If you want to do communion right, you use the big cup.  Sip and dip.  We call it “intinction.”  It is 2018, ride the wave back to 1st-century Eucharistic authenticity.

No one uses the term “Last Supper” except to describe paintings and what convicts eat on death row.  Methodists have Holy Communion or celebrate the Eucharist.   Maybe the last supper people are the ones holding on to the little shot glasses?

I’m the one leading the worship service, and sometimes I lose my attention span.  Keep it balanced (between sitting and standing) and don’t go over an hour.  Sometimes it can’t be helped.  On most occasions, preachers start repeating themselves because they’re afraid to sit down and shut up.  Thus, extended services can be prevented.

Go to the bathroom before the service begins.  Do you realize how distracting it is to be preaching when you see people just get up and leave?  You don’t know if they’re mad or have to pee.  If you do have to go, leave by an unobtrusive exit.  Don’t march down the center aisle in the middle of the sermon.  Honestly, what are you thinking?

Turn your phone off.  God called me and said to tell you to put your phone on silent.  Who calls people while they are in church?   Apparently, more than I’ve imagined.  People won’t talk to their friends or relatives all week then suddenly, sometime after 11 on Sunday mornings, the phones start to ring.  Reach out, reach out and touch someone.  Just not on Sunday morning between 11am and 12pm!

I would love to talk to you about planning your wedding at 10:55 on a Sunday morning.  No, the congregation will wait.  That’s the best time to ask me anything.

From where I stand, I see everything.  Did I mention gum chewing?  Grown-ups, adults, chewing gum in church.  Spit it out.  What is this, some Disney special where you’ve switched bodies with your children?

I don’t care who lights the candles just as long as they’re lit.  It’s great when the acolytes show up and the schedule is followed.  In the end, are they burning when the first hymn is sung?  That’s what matters.  We need contained fire in the church.

The 44 Year Old Still United and Still Methodist Curmudgeon

(Putting the Protest back in Protestant)

Remarks on Presenting Bibles to Graduating Seniors

1. Sometimes we need to be reminded our past is bigger than the history we believe we’ve inherited. We are recipients of an awesome genealogy from our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and beyond. At some point, the records become scarce. The wisdom keepers of our community pass on. The Bible is a reminder that our story is the common story shared by humanity since the dawn of time.

2. We need to be reminded that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves. There is a big picture and sometimes it’s hard to see when you spend all day (or your whole life) looking at Instagram stories. We are part of God’s story.

3. We need to be reminded that community is important. The Bible points us to membership in a community where we believe that gathering around a higher moral purpose is a good thing. There are all types of communities. Some groups are devoted to sports, fitness, or hobbies. Church is different. For over 2000 years, with this book as our guide, we’ve gathered to say pursuing a higher moral purpose in life, rooted in love, is a good thing. When celebrations happen or tragedy strikes; I can tell you from hard won experience, you’re going to want to be with people who value the Bible. This is because you will be loved beyond the superficiality of thoughts and prayers.

4. We need to write our story. Parts of the Bible are unfinished. Mark’s story of the resurrection ends of Jesus’ disciples finding the tomb empty. They never see Jesus’ body. It’s up to the reader to make the resurrection real.  Christian theology is participatory.  Read the book for yourself.

5. Religion aside, this is the foundation work of western literature. To be an intelligent, well-read person you need to know the Bible to appreciate Shakespeare, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemingway, and other great writers of modern literature.

5 Things I Wish Jesus Had Never Said (and Why)


1. Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what your will drink, or about your body, or your will wear. (I like to worry. I worry all the time. I worry about what’s for dinner though it’s never an issue. I worry about being overweight. I worry about sweet tea.) Matthew 6:25

2. Do not judge, so you that you may not be judged. (I judge people. I judge their grammar, behavior, destructive lifestyles, and things that have no bearing on anything. I judge. I shouldn’t but I do. I need to pray more and judge less. Part of my humanity is wrapped up in judging. I wish you’d never said this.) Matthew 7:1

3. Do not worry about tomorrow. (I worry about tomorrow sometimes more than today. I’ve borrowed so much trouble I’m in debt to the First National Bank of Next Week.) Matthew 6:34

4. Anyone who divorces is wife and marries commits adultery, and whoever marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. (I divorced my first wife and married another. My wife did the same thing. Jesus, this seems over the top harsh. I love my wife. We’re not adulterers. I wish you hadn’t said this.  Honestly, it hurts; especially considering how much work for the church she does too.) Luke 16:18

5. Stand up, take your mat, and walk. (Only you Jesus, can say these words. Now every pull yourself up by their bootstraps self-help guru thinks all you have to do fix poverty/illness is to tell the poor to stand up and walk. They don’t realize being Jesus also had something do with the man at the pool being healed.) Luke 5:9

–Richard Bryant

Jesus Wants To Touch Your Feet

People love to talk about their Bibles.  Despite what you see on the news, there are still quite a few people who take what’s in the Bible seriously.  Some take the Word literally, but that can be to the detriment and morale of an entire community.  You see, the Bible (the Old Testament) forbids eating shellfish.  Well, if we on Ocracoke gave up on the shrimp, we’d go out of business.  Most of our island looks the other way when it comes to Deuteronomy 14:8.  Moses tells the Israelites not to eat the pig.  We do love bacon and sausage.  We may love God and Jesus but we’re ignoring the Bible on this one lock stock and Cracker Barrel.  So as devoted to the word as we may be, as committed to Jesus as we are, a literal interpretation would hold a bacon wrapped scallop is as bad as breaking one of 10 commandments.  We pick and choose what we believe.  We need to apply common, contextual sense to how we read the Bible.   Eating a bacon wrapped scallop isn’t the same as killing a person.   Our faith doesn’t grow weaker when we do this kind of reading, it gets stronger.

We love to do what Jesus tells us to do.  Read through all four gospels and you’ll find Jesus’ commands (that’s where get the word Maundy) are short, sweet, and simple.  He tells us to love our neighbors as well love ourselves (a quote from Leviticus).  His stories put prodigals and prostitutes as priorities over money and selfish ambition.  Jesus is easy to sum up.  There is nothing ambiguous about his goals and priorities.  Jesus is easy to emulate; that’s one reason following him is so difficult.  We try to make it harder than it should be.  If we read Jesus literally, we don’t have these internal conflicts and put ourselves into these absurd moral pretzels to justify our positions.  Even when we read Jesus at his most literal, you will never find Jesus advocating murder, stoning, or death. We read Jesus differently.  We can take Jesus at his word.

So tonight, when we come in and see these chairs, pans, pitchers, and water; what do you think?  Oh, no, foot washing?  Or is it something different?  We are taking Jesus at his word.  Jesus did this and so do we.  We let Him touch our feet.

We ignore many crazy parts of the Bible (there are plenty of them) and for good reason.  This isn’t one of those sections.  This is Jesus, serving his disciples and friends on the night before he died.  It may be a little dirty and gross; feet usually are.  It’s not crazy.  It’s love.