In 2018, what words come to mind when the average non-Christian in America hears the term Christianity? Bigotry, hate, homophobia, hypocrisy, misogyny… abuse, power, politics…excusing or ignoring or dismissing unChristian behaviors? We’re familiar with the research, not to mention many headline-making high-profile cases, that demonstrate this, right? (Some of the studies are discussed here.)
I confess at times I’ve been hesitant to tell someone I’m a minister, embarrassed by the legitimate reasons Christianity has a mixed reputation.
As much as I want to identify with the great heroes of faith, I also have to reckon with the uglier parts of our ancestry: those who perpetrated the crusades, those who bought and sold people, those who engaged in ethnic cleansing – to name a few. Sadly, it’s not all in the past. We’re currently living in a time when (white) American patriotism is conflated (and thereby confused) with Christianity.
In this era, there are pockets of Christianity in which you could expect your Christian convictions to be called into question should you appear unpatriotic, express “liberal” points of view, or question those in authority.
Interestingly, this is what led to Jesus’s trouble with the law, his arrest and execution. Ushering in God’s kingdom, he challenged the authority of the Roman Empire. Claiming to be the son of God, he challenged Caesar’s claim to the same. Leaning away from legalism and towards grace, he challenged the Pharisees’ approach to the law.
Jesus didn’t worry about labels, and was always pushing boundaries. He immersed himself in God’s kingdom vision of shalom—wholeness, peace, fullness, harmony. And his rumbles with religious leaders were rooted in their denial or departure from that shalom when they were excluding or mistreating others, and being hyper legalistic. He boldly proclaimed “woe to the religious leaders who make religion too hard for others to follow…” (Luke 11.46)
If we find we’ve been a bit exclusionary or legalistic–corporately or in our hearts–perhaps we can hear Jesus’ “woe” for us and shift course. If we find that we’ve been on the other side of the exclusion or legalism, may we feel Jesus’ inclusion and unconditional love for us.
He said—wherever you find yourself, whatever color of skin or family you’re raised in, whatever language you speak and gender you identify with—seek the kingdom. Love God, love others. Love God by loving each other. Love each other by loving God. Go all in on these things, full speed ahead.
Yeah, let’s be those kind of people.
DONNA K URBAN says
YES!!! And why do those negative bigoted folks have to be so loud? and mean! Love is key. Labels are the enemy of love.
Seriously! As a society we tend to privilege negative news over positive, which is quite self-destructive… at the risk of sounding cliche, LOVE really is the answer