A Texas atheist says "changing the face of Christianity" may mean throwing out the Good Book.
Joe Zamecki, Texas State Director of the American Atheists, praises the new non-profit group Changing the Face of Christianity, Inc. for its efforts to eliminate the image of hypocrisy, homophobia and preconceived notions from within it ranks. However, as an atheist he contends that the only way to truly do so is to discontinue using the Bible.
"If you ever want that friendly church, then throw out the book," he shared in a phone interview.
Zamecki believes that it is impossible for Christians to take a softer stance on issues such as homosexuality while adhering to the Bible. He cites staunch edicts issued by God in Leviticus as examples of how God is hateful and how His followers must be the same. Trying to adopt any other approach is, as he expressed, an act of hypocrisy.
CFC Founder R. Brad White, a former atheist, rejected Zamecki's notion of disowning the Bible in order to reverse negative stereotypes. He said, as an unbeliever, Zamecki can't "grasp the complexities" of the Bible. While God established the law in the Old Testament, he explained, Jesus Christ set the standard for living them out in the New Testament.
"What we are pushing for is a [return] to real Christianity," White stressed.
Last week, the Dallas-based CFC released a press release announcing its mission of reversing Christian intolerance and restoring the true message of Jesus Christ among those who carry his name. White believes Christians are losing touch with society because many are electing to take a hard-line approach of "hating the sin and the sinner."
He insisted that the approach CFC is advocating is not one that is soft on biblical principles. Instead, it encourages Christian to evangelize non-believers through honest, meaningful relationships and to leave the judgment up to God.
"What we're suggesting is living the Bible as opposed to picking out one verse such as 'homosexuality is an abomination' and using that as leverage to hate people," he explained.
Living the Bible while dealing the issue of homosexuality in church, White said, looks like church members asking what they can do to help him or her overcome the situation. On the issue of divorce and the church, he said living the Bible means finding out the back story and then asking, "What can I do to support you?"
White maintained that his ministry does not condone sin, but confronts the problem in order to lead them to repentance and reconciliation. At the same time, CFC does not encourage believers to condemn the sin of non-believers, he added.
"Outside [the church], it's 100 percent God's domain," he shared. He explained that believers in the church who reject correction should be judged according to the Bible for the good of all.
But out in the world, "God is the one to judge," he said. "He's the only one with the power [to do so]; He's the only one with the authority."
White was raised in a Methodist family, but was not spiritual at all as a youth. "I had zero connection with God," he said. In college, he embraced atheism. All of that changed when he received a personal confirmation from God.
Now, he believes he has been called to help erase the negative image assigned to Christianity and reach out to those that feel they have been rejected and abused by the church.
In contrast, Zamecki, a former Catholic, said he was neglected by the church. He lamented that churches seem to be about obligations such as giving money, promoting Christianity and performing religious rituals.
He confided that his experience with Christianity left him angry with God and praying, "God, would you please liberate me from religion."
When he left Catholicism, and ultimately religion, Zamecki divulged, "My church didn't care ... No one called, no one cared."
Now as an atheist, Zamecki no longer believes there is a God and describes prayer to Him as having a conversation in your mind. "It never leaves your consciousness," he said of prayer.
In response, White commented, "It's a shame that his church didn't embrace him and make him feel wanted."
In reaching out to people like Zamecki, White encourages believers to seek a real relationship with people – free of conditions or agenda.
"If we really want them to connect to us to the point that they trust us and care what we think, [they must be] the one to ask [about salvation],"said White.
This approach, he stressed, means that person makes a step towards God too. Salvation is "a two-way street," he insisted, and the unbeliever needs to make the first step.