Friday, July 22, 2011

Us vs. Them

I'm not going to lie. I have a bit of church melancholy this week. As I reflect on what I've been through, where I am, and where I hope to be, there is one thing that becomes shockingly clear. The current state of American Christianity frames life fully within a paradigm of Us vs. Them.

I see the posts from old Christian college classmates on Facebook. I hear claims made my prominent Christian leaders. The majority of them all share the underlying current of that paradigm. It's not enough to disagree with homosexuality. They must claim that the "gay agenda" is trying to corrupt our children. It's not enough to share their belief in the importance of parenthood. They must claim that the secular world hates children. It's not enough to simply accept that they disagree with others on some theological viewpoints. They must declare that the other is backsliding from God and turning away from the truth. The religion that follows the Prince of Peace is continually trying to wage a cultural war with anyone whose opinion differs. How did it come to this?

Most of all, where does this leave people like myself? Those of us who still seek to explore the mysteries of God, but have left American Evangelical Culture behind are displaced. We still embrace Christianity, but not the culture that continues to distort it. That culture views us with pity, suspicion, and disdain, seeing us as nothing more in their eyes than a sad example of how the world leads people astray. Yet, we aren't ready to abandon theological endeavors altogether. As Evangelical Culture becomes more and more pervasive, what place of refuge is left for us?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reason Enough for Dismissal?

Throughout the ages, the church has never ceased to have theological debates. There is no time in history where any group has been able to agree on every issue. That's nothing new. But what I'm amazed at lately as I read articles from various Christian groups/churches and hear things that Christians say is that in this day and age there seems to be this widespread acceptance that there are some issues that warrant completely cutting ties with others.

Don't get me wrong. That in and of itself isn't new. Many Christian denominations have engaged in such practices of shunning or excommunicating throughout the years. I guess I've just been trying to understand such a practice more in light of the Gospel of Christ. And the more I try, the less sense it makes to me.

My biggest sticking point it this: How does one determine exactly what issue is enough to completely cut someone off from your church and possibly turn them away from God all together? What issue is enough? Sexual immorality? Homosexuality? Liberalism?

For the record, those specific issues are all ones that I know of being used as a reason for kicking someone out of a Christian school or church. Does this make sense? Can we sustain the teaching of a gospel of grace when we fall so heavily on the call to repent and so lightly on the concept of forgiveness?

Yet, even if you believe that these are enough to exclude someone, why these issues? Why not issues of pride, greed, lying, or desires for fame and power? All those are issues that can (and have) greatly corrupt(ed) the church.

In end, in a world that is so divisive, judgemental, and exclusive, I would hope that the church could find a way to establish itself as a place of unity, acceptance, and inclusiveness. Yet that is far from our reputation. There's something wrong with that.