I’m not really sure where to start, save the fact that it seems as of late-and maybe it’s always been this way-that the loudest voices in Christianity are the voices on the far right and the far left. If you follow this blog regularly, you know my last couple of posts were inspired by the Great Chik-Fil-A incident on August 1. I’ve taken some flack for those posts because people feel I’m being wishy-washy or vague. But here’s the thing, I don’t have problems with people’s beliefs as much as I do the way they try to bring about change. So I’ve adopted the term middle-Christian. I read statements by people on the far right and shake my head. Then I read opposing comments by people on the far left and do the same. While I am comforted by the fact that the polarity of modern Christianity annoys me, I’m also heart broken to see the church so far divided.
The primary problem I see with modern Christianity is that there is a seamless divide between our faith and our politics. While I agree that your faith should impact how you vote 100%, the problem is that in the political realm, we are conservatives and liberals; Republicans and Democrats. And that carries over into the church.
I grew up in a conservative Christian home/church. So naturally, there are things the Bible says about marriage that I believe and hold those feelings dear. ”We don’t drink or smoke or chew, and we don’t go with girls who do.” That could have been our marching cry. Our lives were squeaky clean on the outside, but we didn’t address the real sinful issues that plagued our hearts. I guess you could say there was some picking and choosing about what sins were okay. Gossip and slander were okay (at least never talked about) as long as we weren’t cheating on someone or drinking. Faith was always cut and dried. The gospel was simple and not messy. We were called to be in the world, not of the world, which led us to be a little bit isolated in our own Christian bubble. And many public figures in that camp are prominent in the church, media and in politics. And the masses often celebrate their squeaky clean rhetoric, that stands up for God and country, and conservative family values. On this side, being a good American is synonymous with being a good Christian. And I love our country as much as the next guy. But when a figure on the right, whether a preacher, public figure, or politician makes a statement that is less than compassionate, I sometimes have to shake my head. Sure, Jesus got frank and downright violent at times, but it was with the Pharisees and the religious leaders, not the marginalized. In John chapter 4, Jesus meets the woman at the well. Jesus violates several social protocols to minister to her. 1) She was a woman, 2) she was a Samaritan, and 3) it was the middle of the day. Jesus knew she was a sinner. He could have made a big speech about the wiles of adultery. Maybe he could have stood up on a rock and started preaching in the square around Jacob’s well telling all the people how their sexual promiscuity had condemned them to hell. But he didn’t. He broke several cultural laws to show her compassion and grace. Then after he showed her compassion and grace, she understood who he was. Her sin was brought to light when she encountered Jesus. But in our culture, we’ve made that up to us. Rather than “offer them Christ” we would rather offer them our political agendas and make sure they straighten up and fly right. And since most of us do not understand being gay the way we understand the temptation to fornicate, get drunk, lie, cheat, or gossip, we feel like this particular sin is more heinous than all the rest and somehow needs to be attacked with a more militant passion. And all the while, I sit here thinking, “Is that what Jesus meant? Is that the example he set for us?” And then there’s the left…
For every clean-mouthed, conservative, anti-gay believer, there’s a foul-mouthed radical who is intolerant of intolerance. They preach a gospel of peace, and often do it in a rather non-peaceful way. They affirm that God loves everyone but in this message, there is very little mention of sin or repentance. It is as if sin is of no consequence as long as you love God and love others. If you happen to believe that certain things are sinful, then you are a bigot and a hater, who probably eats at Chik-Fil-A. In this mindset, I’ve found a lot of picking and choosing what things are wrong, writing off what some would call sin as only “cultural.” Believers on this side of the fence (and yes, there is a fence that divides us) openly practice a lot of “freedom in Christ”. What I mean is that there are certain taboo things that some believers might call sinful. They don’t do them in private as commanded by Paul in I Cor. 8, but they do them in public and rub it in the noses of conservative Christians who are “too uptight.” And if you say that you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, the claws come out and you’re going to get a full dose of the “peace of Christ.” One thing we forget about Jesus is that he did call all people to repentance. In John 8, a crowd was preparing to stone a woman who was caught in adultery, as authorized by the law of Moses. As they picked up stones to hurl at her, Jesus wrote a mysterious message in the sand and encouraged the one who had never sinned to cast the first stone. After the mob leaves, Jesus tells the woman “Go and leave your life of sin.” Jesus compassion was combined with a call to holiness. But many in the church today feel it is easier to preach a gospel that just says God accepts us just as we are and leaves us as we are.
So what’s the point of this blog, besides the fact that I’m probably going to infuriate two very large groups of people? I’m not really sure except that I wish the church in America was not so militant. I wish the church was Christ-driven, not agenda-driven. I wish our stance on political issues did not supersede the call we have on our lives to show Christ’s grace with the world. I wish those of us in the middle had a voice. I wish that people with compassion and understanding who are known as followers of Christ were not branded by the stereotypes of loud-mouthed persons on both sides who happen to have a platform. I wish the millions of dollars from the Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day could have been given to some sort of hunger ministry. I am thankful for the employees of Chik-Fil-A who never asked for their ridiculously busy day at work that they will probably never forget, and hope they somehow see Christ’s love in all of this. I wish hunters and hipsters could sit side by side in the pews and worship the God revealed in Jesus Christ. I wish people would smile when they see the outline of a fish on the back of my car. I wish I didn’t feel like I am going to be attacked by other Christians for my beliefs. I wish wanting a smaller government didn’t make me to be branded as some sort of nutjob. I wish belief in showing grace and compassion to all people didn’t make me branded as a liberal hippie. I wish wearing Mossy Oak camoflauge in public didn’t make some Christian people think less of me. I wish I didn’t feel sometimes I have to precede the word “Christian” with the words “liberal” or “conservative”. I just wish it wasn’t so messy. But I guess if it was simple, it wouldn’t be worth living, now would it? What do you think?