Sunday in church we talked about the church in Smyrna. As I prepared for the sermon something struck me that will likely come as no shock to most of the people who know me and read my blog. Occasionally I tweet out sermon snips while I’m preparing for sermons. I like doing it sometimes seeing a like next to a tweet or a post just perks a person up, but I also would like to engage with others and see what their thoughts are regarding some of these ideas that are pulled into conscious thought and usually work on me on different levels throughout the week and beyond. This past Sunday and continuing into this week one of the snips that didn’t see the light of day until Sunday continues to work on me. Sunday I talked about two specific issues with the church and Christians in general. The first was the myth of Christianity…I’m guessing it’s pretty obvious why I didn’t tweet that out while it was still in the brewing stages…the problem is it’s still brewing and reaction to the Presidents prayer breakfast remarks has made me realize why. I believe that by and large Christianity in the western world and specifically in the United States has become more mythological as the years have gone by. Track with me for a moment the dictionary defines the word Myth as,a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events. So what do I mean when I talk about the Myth of Christianity?
We have unprecedented freedom in the US, especially when it comes to religious freedom, anyone who says otherwise needs to check out what real persecution is, it’s not that hard, head over to the Voice of the Martyrs web site and well things should suddenly become clear, if not, if you can still honestly in your heart claim persecution when someone questions your beliefs, or challenges your thoughts on marriage equality, separation of church and state, prayer in schools, the list is endless, I have no words. Along with that unprecedented freedom seems to have come an unwillingness to admit to the atrocities practiced in the name of Christ.
1. The Crusades. They happened people killed people in the name of Christ. Why we are afraid to admit this, why we refuse to own this atrocious past, no matter how we spin it it’s true. People perpetuated violence in the name of Christ, misguided, sure, bad interpretation of scripture, obviously, done by some with “good intentions,” possibly. Still wrong yes, still evil, yes. We need to own it, not spin it.
2. Oppression and Slavery. Like it or not people in our country have slapped the name Christian and Jesus on all sorts of bigotry, still do as a matter of fact. Our refusal to acknowledge this, or our willingness to sweep it under the rug because it’s embarrassing doesn’t mean it didn’t and unfortunately doesn’t still happen.
3. Misinterpretation: One of the arguments many Muslims use when they condemn people who share their faith who perpetuate violence and terrorism has been that the extremists do not speak for or properly interpret the Koran. Of course we know that misinterpretation and extremist groups are relegated to the Muslim faith only…right? There are no extremist Christians? No one in our country or others that uses scripture out of context to justify their behavior…no never happens in Christianity, just in other religions.
I don’t understand my more right wing friends need to tear into the President publicly over remarks that were made at the prayer breakfast. What are Christians afraid of?
John 8:31-59 offers some interesting thoughts into this idea, at least to me it does. We have a group of religious leaders who are used to not being questioned, used to not being challenged. The parallels are great, they use rhetoric and long held tradition, or at least long held traditional thought to justify their action, or inaction on various issues. Jesus calls them on it, tells them the truth is important and needs to be embraced, accepted and dealt with. We don’t want to do this because it means we may have to change our minds on what it really means to be a Christ follower. We may have to change our reaction to being offended, misunderstood, or called out for hypocrisy. Change is never easy, and many times facing the missteps, and sins of the past can be downright uncomfortable, but it still has to be done. If we as Christ followers have any hope of being relevant, and a bridge to a relationship with God to others, then it’s time we stop acting like we are above it all, that our sins of commission and omission are mistakes that should be overlooked. We need to be able to look at the statement that President Obama made
“And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
The statement stands, it’s true, it’s accurate, yet “important” Christian leaders have decided that this true statement doesn’t fit with their understanding of American Christianity. It’s like we are afraid of our past, afraid that people will see us and turn us into our sin…This isn’t fun, it’s not easy or comfortable but if we believe what Jesus says in John 8:32 (New Living Translation, Second Edition)
8:32 (NLT) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The truth is that following Christ is hard, it takes time, effort, dedication, and humility. I wish American Christians would embrace the grace, love and forgiveness of God, that they would let him into the places in the institution that have been locked up for decades, let him come into the uncomfortable spots, the places that we have misinterpreted scripture, that we have used it as a club to beat people out of the light and love of Christ and do the work that must happen.
My observation… we’re great at specks of dirt, but blind to planks of wood.