There have been many times in the past few months that I have thought of completely leaving social media, well Facebook. I lay the blame for this consideration squarely at the feet of Christians. Well okay not just at their feet, I also lay some of it at the feet of panderers, you know who I mean the ones that post ultimatums about who their real friends are, the fact that many times the people who post these ultimatums also happen to be or claim to be Christians leads me right back to the whole I lay the blame of being ready to give it all up at their feet.
On any given day when I check out either of my Facebook feeds, yes I have two one for professional use and one for private use, I am overwhelmed by the number of “friends” who practice what I think I’ll start calling American Jesus Guerilla Warfare, I also come across several people who have swallowed the religious right’s vitriol hook line and sinker, and then of course there are those that are more concerned about their constitutional rights than they are about people who are lost. Equally disturbing are the people who feel it’s their duty to prove their particular point of view regarding scripture is the correct one. It’s really no secret that my faith has been evolving and changing over the years, things that I was sure of 10 years ago are not not so clear. I personally think that’s a good thing, it makes me push deeper into scripture, attempt to find out what the actual words used mean instead of what they are interpreted to mean, and really wrestle with some things that used to seem easy to understand and now are grey areas. ( I have always said that I feel there are grey areas in the Bible, something that has always put me at odds with most Christians I know and have been or am friends with.) Now don’t get me wrong, the reason that there are grey areas in the Bible has everything to do with humanity and nothing to do with God. Here’s the thing humans rarely get it right when it comes to interpreting God. The problem is the recent trend I see coming from friends, friends of friends, and religious leaders.
When I look at the life and words of Jesus, and the life of the early church leaders and compare them to American Jesus and popular pastors there is really no comparison. Persecution was to be expected, in fact more than expected it was to be welcomed with joy.
James 1:2 (NLT)
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
That’s counterintuitive to western pastors and Christians, when troubles come our way we don’t consider it an opportunity for joy, we look at is as a call to arms. An opportunity to stand up for our rights. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, yet we would rather put up our dukes. American Christians have anointed the republican party as Jesus party, yet if we would admit to it, Jesus had the most criticism for people who cared more about personal rights, and personal wealth than he did for the people who recognized the need to be actively involved in reaching out to people who were disenfranchised and didn’t have the right upbringing, or know the right people to have any real say in the way the known world was governed. I used to tell a buddy of mine that Jesus was a Socialist, mainly to spark debate, and while that’s not really a completely accurate label to place on him, there are views of socialism in his words and work, the problem is whenever humans get their hands on one or two concepts that form a way to live a life that is worth living they will corrupt it.
The thing that disturbs me the most is the fact that so many people blindly follow whatever a religious leader says as long as they slap a Bible verse on it or say “God told me.” That’s the problem though. It’s much easier to find someone you agree with, and then follow along blindly, forgetting to dig in on your own, to find out what the context is, to learn and ask questions, and make messes in our faith. What happens when you struggle with what you believe, when you ask the questions you’re not supposed to ask and then dig for the answers can be frightening, mainly because it has the potential to set you at complete odds with the people you grew up with, the people you love, or the people who are supposed to know the truth.
If we take seriously what Jesus said was the most important thing, loving God and Loving others, then our interactions will by necessity look different. The place where this falls apart for humans is at the loving others part. It’s easy to love God in some ways, there is not real interaction there beyond prayer and reading the Bible, some would argue that church attendance proves that I love God but to me that’s more of a way to prove to others how committed I am. It’s harder to love others, because others are here and can be interacted with. Others have the potential to hurt our feelings, or to cause us heart ache, or to not love us back. Jesus tells us that’s the most important thing that we can do though, love. If that’s the case why do Christians spend so much time doing other things? Again referencing social media, I find Christians taking sides against each other on all sorts of issues, debating things like the person and work of the Holy Spirit, the importance of creationionism the true meaning of Hebrews 1.
Equally disturbing are the friends that have taken up the cause of the NRA as something that Jesus would do, pushed for prayer and other “Christian” things to be placed in our schools, and attacking our president and members of congress and the supreme court who are not from “Jesus” party. Christians are more interested in fighting the good fight when it comes to traditional marriage, than they are with loving God and loving people. It disturbs me that the litmus test for true faith has become where people stand on these issues as opposed to how much they love and serve.
Matthew 7:20 (NLT)
20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
If I apply this verse and the ones before it to what I read and see from so many “Christians” I fear they are missing the point of what Jesus told us to do. In our zeal to be right, we are leaving out the fact that we were never really told to be right. We were to to be salt, and light… Paul became all things to all so that he could save some. The American church has told all people to become like them so that they could be saved, it’s twisted but it works, it sells books, and gets likes, and gets re-tweets and plays well to the chosen few. Meanwhile people who are lost are looking at the church as a club that they don’t’ want to join because they could never possibly fit in with a group of people who knows it all and can’t stand to be around anyone not like them. A group so insulated from reality that when the do poke their heads up it’s to tell everyone how wicked and evil they are, how much we need to get back to the principles that we were founded on, and how we should stand up for what’s right and true and honest.
I’m disturbed because so many of us are “taking a stand,” but we are forgetting this warning.
1 Corinthians 10:12 (NLT)
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.
I guess the most disturbing thing to me though is how easy it is for me to fall into the same traps. Far from being a member of the card caring religious right, it’s easy for me to discount everything they say, to try and poke holes in their theology to condemn them for not living the way I say Jesus lived. It’s disturbing to realize that I too do the same thing that they do. I’m all for reaching the lost and the hurting, to being a pastor who is willing to listen and dig and read and walk beside anyone no matter who they are as long as the who they are is not one of those people who are so obviously bigoted and wrong and narrow minded. In my zeal to get people on the right to realize that whosoever means whosoever, I forget that they are in that group as well. It’s an over correction on my part and it’s hard to admit that I’m like them, and in saying I’m like them, I’m putting us on opposite sides and starting the whole process over again.
The thing is the cornerstone of our faith is supposed to be grace, it is because of God’s grace that we are saved, and it is with that type of grace that we should handle each other even when we disagree.