Who Am I – Really?

A Helping Hand (huffpost.com)

Thought for the Week

This is something I never expected to write. Not because I have anything to hide, but because I don’t. However, last week two men I respect questioned whether I really am the person I claim to be, or whether I have some secret agenda. Why?

Because I used a quote by Mother Teresa in a blog post that, ironically, has been my most read and Liked this month. The problem: because Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic, they argued, I should not have quoted her, or at the very least should have included a warning about her theological views. I replied that that was not what the post was about, and not what she’s known for.

Unsatisfied, the first fellow, whose blog site is dedicated to exposing the “false gospel” (his words) of Catholicism, wrote a post entitled “Evangelicals’ Undiscerning Infatuation with Mother Teresa,” using me as its prime example. The second, whose site is dedicated to defending evangelical orthodoxy, re-blogged it, and then in another post revealed what appeared to be my secret agenda: converting protestants to Roman Catholicism!

The proof? Along with quoting Mother Teresa (never mind that I also quote atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Sufis, ancient pagan philosophers, the Bible, etc.), my feature film Healing River was financed by a Catholic production company! He asked me to either admit my secret agenda or explain this apparent smoking gun. Why had I been avoiding the issue? Because, I replied, literally no one but you has ever considered it an issue!

Honestly? His and the other fellow’s questions were less about who I am than about who they are and what they believe.

Nevertheless, I explained that the production company was indeed initially attracted to Healing River because of its two principal Catholic characters (their other movies are made for Catholics). But when I signed-on to write and direct I insisted that Healing River neither be about nor preach Catholicism (it’s about forgiveness), and that it be made for general audiences. Result? It has been seen by far more people than their other films (over 400,000) and has been praised by church leaders from all denominations.

So who am I – really? Well, I’m not a Catholic, nor do I agree with all of their teachings. But neither am I anti-Catholic. I’m simply a passionate Jesus-follower. And I don’t refer to myself as an “evangelical” either, by the way, because that once-honorable term has acquired ugly connotations: things people are against. My blog site, stories, and films are about things I’m for. I prefer to focus on what’s good (Mother Teresa’s ideas about charity and service), rather than what’s bad (her depression and ever-changing beliefs).

Am I theologically “undiscerning”? Well, I’ve studied and taught theology for over forty years, have served at three churches (one non-denominational, one Evangelical Free, and one Presbyterian), and spoken at conferences throughout North America, and my messages have always been well-received. I suspect it’s because they’re about…

Building bridges, not fences.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

99 Responses to Who Am I – Really?

  1. Wynne Leon says:

    How interesting that you have been put in this position, Mitch. My dad who was a Presbyterian pastor described his stance near the end of his life as a big tent person. As in, no matter what door you come in, there’s room in the tent for all. It sounds like you might be similar — and doing a great job of building bridges!

    Liked by 8 people

  2. I’m reading “Military Ministry: Chaplains in the 21st Century” by Linzey and Travis. It’s for military chaplains and those thinking about it for a career, but it’s also so useful for the rest of us! They address pluralism, culture, and diversity on several levels. I appreciated examples the authors shared. They agree with you that the Lord wants us to build bridges, not fences.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Todd R says:

    Bravo Mitch. I was personally wondering whether you’d been secretly replaced with Folger’s Crystals.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ron says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this topic.
    As you well know I can personally attest to your position and the accuracy of facts that you cite in this blog. Well said! And I agree.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. G.W. says:

    “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

    My choice of theology helps me understand my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my Savior. Christ is my Savior. My chosen theology is not!

    And good for you, Mitch. I see the “Weed-Whackers” are still around. The Lord didn’t even allow the angels to separate the weeds from the grain lest they destroy some grain by mistake. They will be sorted out at the harvest (Judgement).

    Liked by 9 people

  6. revruss1220 says:

    Wow! That is incredible! I had no idea about the existence of this branch of Protestant Christianity… fearful of the spread of Roman Catholicism! That is truly distressing. How does someone turn so completely away from spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ and toward being more concerned with what KIND of Good News is communicated? Let it slide, Mitch. Remember all the good work you are doing with your blog and films and consider this attack just the price of your notoriety.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. rwfrohlich says:

    As a fellow Christian I will say that I’m grateful for you are and for how you use your gifts.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Agreed, Mitch. We should be all looking towards building bridges…not fences.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Paula Light says:

    They used you to get attention for themselves. Grrrr!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I wrote a book about how evangelicals judge Catholicism without fully understanding its teachings. And sometimes Catholic and Orthodox believers misjudge evangelicals too. Sometimes we misunderstand. Sometimes we authentically disagree.

    But do we strive to follow Christ? And do we do a disservice to our brothers and sisters who love and follow Christ by passing along distortions rather than loving those who love God?

    Times are changing in America for Christians. Ben Franklin said it best: we can all hang together, or we can hang separately. Let’s do what Jesus prayed for in John 17. Let’s love each other and show the world we are one–not always in agreement, but ever in love for God and each other.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. It unfortunately happens, both in and out of the internet. Every so often, I get to see clearly the root behind these misunderstandings–from what I’ve observed, it often comes from a lack of trust.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Well said. The best is our love for Jesus and others. All others. Even when it is difficult. There is good and bad in all of us and this applies to what we say. Let us continue to quote the good.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Agreed! Bridges not fences!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I hear folks like the two men you mentioned, I wonder if they have really read the Bible. How could they misconstrue Jesus’ message of love so wrong? How can we both call ourselves Christian and represent such differing views on love and loving your neighbor? And then it sends shivers down my spine and makes sad. But then I read your post and Wynne’s description of a big tent, and I think there’s hope! Thanks Mitch for fighting the good fight.

    Liked by 2 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thanks so much, Brian. For the record, both men know their Bibles well and seek to use that knowledge to defend what they consider essential. I disagree with them on this, but I won’t judge them.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Yes Mitch, I’m definitely judging too harshly and I apologize for that. (What do I know though, I’m one of those pagan Catholics those two men hate so much. Sorry I couldn’t resist there.) We live in a crazy world. I just come back to what my Amish (yes, Amish) grandmother asked me when I was 9 or 10. She didn’t care if I was Presbyterian or Methodist or whatever. She just wanted to know if I believed in God, knew that Christ died for my sins and if I was treating others the way he called us to treat them with kindness and charity and generosity. Pretty simple I know, but I always thought that was pretty wise for a woman who had at best a seventh grade education. In any event, Thanks for posting!

        Liked by 3 people

      • mitchteemley says:

        Right on, Amish Grandma!

        Liked by 1 person

  15. C.A. Post says:

    Your photo with this blog reminded me of a meme I read once, that goes well with this blog: “Don’t look down on anyone unless you are helping them up.”
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. C.A. Post says:

    BTW, I will be glad when we get to Heaven and God can tell all of you “I was right.” 😂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. You wrote, “His and the other fellow’s questions were less about who I am than about who they are and what they believe.” Exactly – I could not agree more. (sadly)

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kara Luker says:

    It breaks my heart when there is such unnecessary judgment and division. I love your heart Mitch and think the way you choose to express it in your blog honors God’s heart and the gospel so beautifully. Pretty sure God’s pretty darn delighted too. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. An Audience of One says:

    So, I guess these two individuals have never gleaned insight nor quoted someone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do? I’m sure they also only read books that align with their theology? 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Lol, an Illuminatum Like’d or Follow’d my ‘blog today. 😨 I’m definitely not doing SOMEthing right… But you are, Mitch. As Jesus also knew, fences are way easier than bridges to build, and many of us are bridge-lazy.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Anonymous says:

    Go, Mitch! Carry on.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. If you examine a wooden fence, it’s slats of wood that separate people. Look at a wooden bridge. It’s slats of wood that connect people. So a bridge is a fence that has been laid on its side. If the saying is wise, then the source doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Exactly – building bridges, which is why I follow your blog and will continue to do so.
    and I’m really Methodist … hope that doesn’t get me kicked out of here … 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  24. God bless, Mitch. Jesus was put to death at the direction of the ones who considered themselves orthodox and who defined themselves by what they were not.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of someone being criticized for sharing a quote from Mother Teresa. Sheesh. In all the time I’ve been reading your blog, you’ve been so far from trying to convert people to a particular orthodoxy, I didn’t know what–if any–denomination you belong to.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. “I am a passionate Jesus-follower”. ‘Nuff said!! (I am too!) Carry on.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Your blog beautifully clarifies what your intentions were-but your intentions were clear to begin with! Here’s another quote by Mother Theresa: “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.”

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Maybe folks involve themselves in fence-building because it’s easier than building bridges. “Nothing is easier than fault-finding.”–Unknown.

    Liked by 4 people

  29. murisopsis says:

    *sigh* I have always enjoyed your posts (as a Roman Catholic) because they are about living a Christian life (which aligns perfectly with my beliefs), I agree that their criticism is more about them than you. We need more bridge builders than fence builders!!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. gpavants says:

    Mitch,

    We are defined by what we do and whose we are, right? Being define by our denomination isn’t it. In Christ,

    Gary

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Well said. Well defended. Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ feeds my soul. I recognize when he drifts into pure Catholicism. Not a big deal. Same thing when I consider Mother Theresa, Chesterton and St. Augustine in totality. I get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Gary Fultz says:

    I’m still pushing “Healing River” because it’s the best way I have seen “forgiveness” wrestled and won in a realistic way in any movie I have seen Mitch. I too also respect those guys. I would like to see a “healing river” happen across our country beginning with those of us who have experienced it in real life.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Chaya Sheela says:

    Beautifully explained, Mitch.
    I reread it a few times. Loved the post.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. I am so with you. Many people will be shocked to find out with who is in heaven. We are Jesus followers. Period. I accept people who are Jesus followers from any denomination.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. jbh42 says:

    Good honest post, I appreciate you willing to write on this tough position!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. You handled this perfectly, Mitch. I never cease to be surprised by some people’s spiritual arrogance—always so ready to declare someone else in error. When I retire and write my book on theology, I think my title might be, “I Might Be Wrong.” The universe is large and greatly varied. God is larger and more mysterious, still. And God’s love in Christ is bigger and more grace-filled than all our opinions. One final thought: there is that wonderful prayer that Jesus prays in the Gospel of John—“…that they may be one as we are one.” Peace, my brother.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. As a lapsed Catholic who is now just trying my very best to be a good Christian, I appreciate starting my day by reading this post. Many excellent points.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Some years ago I heard a guy on the local Christian radio station claim that C. S. Lewis was a satanist. His proof was that if you go into any new age bookstore, you’ll find Lewis’s fiction for sale. Yes, he really considered that irrefutable proof. There’s no fixing that level of stupid.

    More recently, I saw a comment on someone’s blog (can’t remember whose) chastising the blogger for having posted a music video by The Piano Guys. Nothing wrong with the music, of course, but The Piano Guys are (gasp!) Latter Day Saints, and therefore anything they do must be tainted with heresy. Sigh…

    No doubt there are fundamentalists who would say we shouldn’t listen to music by Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Brahms, Vivaldi, Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Haydn, and any number of other world-class composers, given their personal peccadillos. I say they can go pound sand.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Heidi Viars says:

    I’d say, we all keep going on this broken road! As I say to my kids, “As long as we keep falling and stumbling forward, we ARE making progress.”

    Liked by 3 people

  40. While I can probably find something to disagree with, some practices and expressions of faith in Christ that I cannot support in every denomination, Paul sums it up best:

    Philippians 4:8
    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Bravo Mitch! You and the Apostle Paul are two of a kind: In talking to the men of Athens who believed in “The Unknown God,” he referred to the saying of certain of their own poets. (Acts 17: 28) Those fault-finding, lovers of condemnation are “hypocrites” and “whitewashed tombs.”

    Like

    • mitchteemley says:

      Thank you, Michele, but it’s not within my power or calling to judge their motives.

      Like

      • Hi Mitch,
        This was the first time in my 54 years of knowing the Lord to have used that terminology. The Lord used these words to describe those who judged by the law, and not by the Spirit, which was done in what you described took place. Do you believe that such words can come out of Christ in us? With the froward, God will be froward. Their judgments (and they were judgments) were not of God .
        Jesus responded to Peter’s words and addressed Satan in him. Will there not be such times in our lives that we will do the same thing?It would not be us on our own… It would be Christ in us.
        Having said that, it is true I don’t know their hearts… All I know was that there was a rising up in my spirit against what was done. I will give an account for this if I was in my flesh to write what I did. I have been one almost all my life to be gentle, kind, and not wanting ever to hurt anyone, but the Lord has let me know that it is right to call a spade a spade. Paul used strong words and took action when Bar-jesus tried to hinder the work of God calling him a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that’s right. God’s matured ones shall respond in like manner when the devil uses people to come against His children when they are doing His will.
        As I said, I have never called anyone a hypocrite and a whitewashed tomb before and I am shocked to have a vision of God smiling at me right now. I believe my words were His opinion of them, not my own.
        We will all answer to Him, eh?
        Bless you Mitch. I love your writings.
        His,
        ❤️Michele

        Like

  42. Thanks for checking out my blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  43. oneta hayes says:

    When the BigWigs turn on you, remember I like you. Smiling at you.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. I remember the big divide over Roman Catholic and Protestant when I was growing up. Then my parents house burned down, and all their Catholic friends pitched in and helped us out. After that, I didn’t hear much about how bad Catholics were. Signs of love and care, move hearts and minds, the way Mother Teresa did. . Thanks for your message.

    Liked by 2 people

  45. JW Worcester says:

    I’m a firm believer in the Bible. The Bible speaks for itself and is the best commentary on the Bible. Dauntless, my views will annoy the majority of Christians in our country. My faith view comes from a multi-church organization and my own reading of the Bible. Other than what I write is not something I will compromise on. Jesus is the bridge – not our beliefs or compromises.

    https://www.faithfulmen.us/p/bible-and-beliefs.html

    Liked by 1 person

  46. gregoryjoel says:

    Thank you for this Mitch. I’m sorry that such people wear the name Christian, but then again, Jesus always seemed to have issues with the religious elite. Thank you for your writings and the positive message they send. Thank you for being “for” rather than “anti” anything that doesn’t fit into some crappy little dogmatic christian ( little c) pigeonhole. Know that you’re appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Thotaramani says:

    Even though Iam not catholic, I respect every religion and also studied in Catholic School. Pray all Gods. May God Bless you with all the happiness of the life

    Liked by 1 person

  48. While Catholicism has some significant theological issues, there are most definitely Christians within the Catholic church. In fact, I have a friend who is one. Thank you for writing this thoughtful post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Ann Coleman says:

    I read this while I was on vacation and couldn’t respond, but I saved it because I thought it was so important. Good for you for standing firm on your right to treat other religions with respect and being open minded enough to see that there are some universal truths in almost every religion. I honestly think that’s what Jesus had in mind, not the “staking out of territories” and arguing over subtle differences that we see so much of instead. Far better to focus on what we agree on than to waste time quibbling over what we disagree with, don’t you think? It helps remind us that God loves everyone!

    Liked by 1 person

  50. craig lock says:

    Reblogged this on Let's Break Dawn Barriers and Build Bridges and commented:
    “I write to express a bit of ‘the real me’, who I really am.”

    and
    “I’m a writer, and everything I write is both a confession and a struggle to understand things about myself and this world in which I live. This is what everyone’s work should be-whether you dance or paint or sing. It is a confession, a baring of your soul, your faults, those things you simply cannot or will not understand or accept. You stumble forward, confused, and you share. If you’re lucky, you learn something.”
    ~ Arthur Miller
    http://www.writeonwriting.wordpress.com
    http://www.writersonwriting.wordpress.com

    Like

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