Wednesday, April 6, 2016

I Love Christianity, And I'm Sick Of Christianity

I am what you would call a "basket to casket" Christian.  I was raised as a Christian by my mother, who was raised as a Christian by her mother before her, and so on, and, God willing, I will continue to practice my Christianity until the day I leave this world.

I am a pastor who has dedicated his life to answering God's call to raise up a new flock of Jesus followers, to preach, teach, and proclaim the inspired Word of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments, and to build the kingdom of God here on earth by pursuing justice, equality, and dignity for people.

And it is that last one that has led me to this (probably inevitable) conclusion: I love Christianity.  It has given me so, so much in my life: meaning, truth, redemption, and above all else, love.

But man, I am so sick of Christianity too.

Less than a week before the persecution fantasy film God's Not Dead 2 hit theaters, North Carolina passed the most comprehensive anti-gay legislation in the country since the United States Supreme Court, in Obergefell, legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states.

Then, less than a week after the release of GND2, Mississippi, not to be outdone, passes its own version of that legislation.

Mind you, these are states with real policy problems to address.  North Carolina, thanks to Art Pope and his rule over the state government, is facing down budgetary cuts to important programs--cuts of its own making.  Mississippi is perennially ranked as the least healthy state in the country, outranking the rest of the nation in obesity, teen pregnancy, and illiteracy.

But please, let's spend over $40,000 on a special session to ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted in the name of sparing Christians from fake persecution, because that is the fiscally conservative thing to do.

I am so sick of Christianity.

In the months leading up to the release of GND2, the two frontrunners for a major party's presidential nomination released competing ideas concerning the Muslim population of America and of the world.  One announces that he wants to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.  The other, not to be outdone, eventually announces that he wants to place all Muslim-Americans under police surveillance.

We'll set aside the obvious questions of how the heck that is constitutional in light of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments for the moment to ask, "Forget the Constitution for a minute, how is this Biblical when the Bible proclaims the Samaritan as the neighbor?"

And we'll set aside the fact that one of those candidates also said he was a Christian first and an American second.  Can you imagine the outcry if a Muslim candidate for president said that, that they were a Muslim first and an American second?

But we Christians have the nerve to say that we are somehow the ones who are being persecuted in America?

I am so sick of Christianity.

Over in Tennessee, lawmakers are voting on whether to make the Bible their official state book.  Personally, since it's the Tennessee state government (the same government that tried to criminalize the practice of Islam as a religion--again, why do we think we're the ones who are persecuted here?), I think their state book should be, I don't know, The Crucible or The Sneetches if you're trying to send a message, or maybe Justin Bieber's memoir if you've given up and just want to convey how comically awful the lawmakers are at their jobs.

But as Jesus's brother James famously exhorts in his letter in the New Testament, if I say to a hungry person or a naked person, "Go in peace, be warm, have a nice meal," what good is it?  Faith is dead when it doesn't result in faithful works (2:15-17).

How can proclaiming the Bible as your state book when you don't even follow its precepts in treating those of other religions possibly be considered a faithful work?

I am so sick of Christianity.

I remember all of the fervent news media coverage of President Obama's election and inauguration in 2008 and 2009, breathlessly asking if we had finally become a "postracial" society.

But just last summer, a white Christian racist shot up a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine souls.

That was followed up in October with another white Christian terrorist killing three more people in Colorado Springs, with his cries of "no more baby parts" indicating that he had likely been radicalized by the doctored Center for Medical Progress tapes that had also been released that summer.

It was after the jihadist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino that the aforementioned presidential candidates began talking openly about persecuting all Muslims in the name of fighting Islamist terror.

No such talk has ever been uttered by our leaders about treating us Christians the same way--though that would indeed give us an actual pretext to make a movie about being persecuted.

I am sick of all of this because it hurts so, so very much to see the Gospel that I love, the Gospel whose words have saved me a hundred times over, be so distorted, so perverted, so taken blatant advantage of by selfish and short-sighted people.

I am sick of all of this because every time I hear a friend or newly-made acquaintance, once they find out that I am a pastor, tell me why they left the church, I break a little inside.

I am sick of all of this because such pain and indignity be inflicted upon a people who have for decades, for centuries, seen only pain and degradation from Christians is a genuinely awful witness.

I am sick of all of this because instead of taking to heart Christ's exhortations that the first will be last and the last will be first, that the humble will be exalted and the proud will be brought down, that we still want only to cut everyone else in line to make sure we still occupy the privileged roost of American society.

I am sick of all of this because I feel so strongly about God, about the message, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that I can only feel hurt at how my faith is publicly acted out by those with the widest platforms and the biggest audiences.

Do not dare to tell me that I am dividing the church, or staining the Gospel, or forgetting that there are bigger things at play here.

There are no bigger things at play when we are talking about a kingdom that creates worth and dignity for every person not like us, a kingdom that offers redemption and salvation for every person who may not look like us or talk like us but was still made like us because the One who made you is the One who made me, and none of our hateful, spiteful, or diabolical politics will change that immutable reality.

Much as you might wish it to be so.

For the Good News of the Gospel is that it is not, has not, and never will be so.

Stop using my religion to tell people that they are worth less than you.  Please.

And if you cannot, or will not, I will pray for God's mercy upon you.

Vancouver, Washington
April 6, 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment