Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Finding Something to Hold On To and a Plea for a Ceasefire.

Fair warning: this is going to be a little rant-y.

As the culture wars flare up once again (don't worry, this post has nothing to do with chicken sandwiches), I find myself forced to take stock of my continued commitment to a cultural phenomenon (because let's face it, that's what Christianity has been reduced to in a lot of ways) that feels increasingly foreign to me.  If this is what Christianity has become, a yelling match between two sides that seem increasingly less interested in dialogue and more interested in demonizing one another, then I'm just not sure how effective it can be in doing the things that its namesake (you know, Christ) taught. 

How is it exactly that (what are supposed to be) quintessential Christian attitudes like meekness and mercy, pure-heartedness, peacemaking and hungering and thirsting for righteousness are exemplified on this cultural battlefield?  How is it that what is supposed to be an earthly representation of Christ's radical, enemy-loving grace has become so hateful, so vitriolic, so divisive?  How do I love my enemies as a part of a culture that seems to draw new lines of exclusion and make new enemies every day?  How do I show mercy amongst the merciless heretic hunters, discerners, deniers and denouncers whose voices are always the loudest?  How do I practice peacemaking within an organization that (literally) makes its money by perpetuating confrontation? (Let's not pretend the cultural wars haven't been beneficial for both sides of the spectrum here.)

If what has become of Christendom is truly what being a Christian is, then I don't think I want to be one.

But come now, I think we all know that's just not true: Christianity isn't necessarily defined by our culture.  It's wholly and singularly defined by the paradoxical love of Christ; a love that prays for, not retaliates against, its persecutors, that forgives, as many times as is needed, that always seeks peace and reconciliation, that gives freely of itself and its possessions in spite of the condition of the heart of the receiver.  It's a Love that's much bigger than the tiny ideological boxes that we've confined it to.  Surely, on this much, we can agree without much consternation.

But I'm not quite giving up, not yet anyway (Sorry to disappoint, Steve-O).  When I find myself in dark places like, there's one notion, one idea, one verse that always seems to provide me with just enough to hold on. 
"Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail."
There's always hope.

So for now, that's what I'll have to do, continue to put the work in hopes that someday, it may make the slightest bit of difference for somebody, somewhere.

But for now, for Christ's sake (literally) and for the Love of God (again, literally):

Can we please just stop fighting?

2 comments:

  1. Luke, Socratic question. If you serve Christ, who is your enemy? Who stands in the way of "meekness and mercy, pure-heartedness, peacemaking and hungering and thirsting for righteousness?" Is it "them," homosexuals, liberals, conservatives, etc., fill in the blank or is it actually us the church? How are we supposed to treat our enemies, specifically when the enemy is us? If we get on our soapbox and bemoan what they have become aren't we partaking in the same kind of hypocrisy that we are accusing them of?

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    Replies
    1. Good questions all, Skip.

      No one stands in the way of individuals living according to the ethics outlined here, but the question is one of whether or not it is beneficial for those individuals to continue to participate in and be a part of an organizational culture that, often times, runs counter to those ideals. I think each individual has to answer that question for themselves. Luckily, I've found a place where I can still be a part of that culture while continuing to try to bring about change without either hating myself or losing my mind, but I think each individual has to find their own way.

      As to the last question, I would say that there is a difference, at least from my perspective, in the divisive, issue-focused back and forth that dominates much of the Christian cultural narrative, and honest attempts to point to the life and teachings of Christ and say, "Hey guys, I think we might've lost our way here." So no, I don't think that it's hypocritical to point out when what should be secondary doctrines start to supplant foundational principles like loving God and loving our neighbor. Maybe I'm just rationalizing, but it seems like two different situations to me.

      However, if genuine, prophetic criticism of the church devolves into just another line of name-calling and bomb-throwing, then yes, you're absolutely right in calling it hypocritical. I think that's where, for me anyway, staying within the culture is vitally important, because it's not "what they have become" it's "what we have become." I refuse to give up my minority stake in this thing. I'm the annoying guy at the shareholder meeting who only own one share but wants to speak his piece (think Mr. Deeds).

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