Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Most Offensive

Recently, one of my readers sent me a blog post to read and interact with. He and I know each other from our Christian school days, and through the magic of Facebook, we reconnected.  I think that some of the conclusions I have come to and the questions I ask on this blog have bothered him.  I'm pretty sure I understand the gist of the blog post he sent me and the gist of what he believes, because it's very much what I used to believe too.  

You see, it isn't that I don't believe in the gravity of God and the weight of Scripture anymore. It isn't that I don't believe in "absolute truth" as a concept anymore. It isn't that I don't think the Bible is true.  What I believe now, though, is that none of us can contain it all. Like a plastic water bottle in a hot car, we leak bpa an other toxins into the water of Truth. With our worldview, our understanding of culture, our personalities, our prejudices, our limitations, our frustrations, we muddy the truth in some way or another.  Even the idea of Absolute Truth is a product of modernism and the Enlightenment. And so it is with humility that I now approach what I think I know about God and the Bible.  I attempt to live out what I understand it teaches, while being aware of the good in other denominations, other cultures and even other faiths.

The blog post I read suggested that the most offensive thing to irreligious people is that God exists and has revealed Himself and His expectations of human beings in the Bible and that we are all responsible to follow those expectations or will face judgement for our choices. 

I want to suggest that that really isn't thing what makes many Christians so offensive to the rest of the world. I see people willing to live in submission to many things they believe to be true: they eat vegan or gluten free. They limit themselves in uncomfortable ways because of their beliefs about the environment. They submit to a lifestyle of doing without because of their beliefs about the way the government is broken.  They live in harmony with other people who believe differently from them politically, culturally, and religiously. What IS horribly offensive to them about the typical Christian is the arrogant stance that their interpretation, their church, their version of Christianity is the one TRUE way and everyone else must believe exactly like them because God is happiest and most pleased with their flavor of Christianity. 

Recently, I read an article about a girl who was part of the Westboro Baptist know who they are...the ones with the terrible signs showing messages of confrontation against those they disagree with.  While most fundamentalists of my childhood are embarrassed by this church and their activities, many of them hold nearly the exact same set of beliefs.  This girl was suddenly taken with the idea that maybe in all the world, and in all of history, how could it be that her church was the ONLY true church? How could they be the ONLY ones who were right?

I love the Bible. I follow Jesus.  And I humbly admit that I might be wrong in the way I understand the Bible. There are many parts of it that are hard to understand, hard to accept, hard to explain. There are parts that can be offensive.  But I personally don't need to be offensive. I don't need to make it harder for people than it already is by not understanding the culture where I live.

We live in a world that is post-modern and post-Christian.  I think many Christians are deeply unsettled by these facts. They are angry that things changed, much like people get mad when Facebook changes some feature. They want things to go back to "the good old days."  I'm not sure "good old days" ever really existed, but if they did, they are over now. Suggesting that people hate God and just want to defy Him are weirdly comforting ideas to Christians who can't seem to get the hang of this new way of thinking. It creates a straw man to fight. And I see it every single day on Facebook. The comfort of "us" against "them."

As Christians, we are called to show others what God is like. It grieves me that too many Christians are showing that God is against others, that He hates them, that He can only be satisfied if others join up with a group of people who are arrogant, self-satisfied and offensive. They don't listen. They don't love. They are hypocritical. They are rude. They are a little bit ignorant. They offer easy answers and very little practical solutions. They are only interested in people becoming just like them. That is the most offensive thing about Christianity.

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