On days when I am struggling to find a topic about which to blog, I am always saved
by someone doing something weird in the name of Christianity.
There is a delightful couple who have recently begun attending our church. I am so pleased they chose us because of their fresh openness and willingness to question. During Bible study Sunday, they told of how friends react when told they are now attending church regularly. It is much the same reaction I got from friends when I told them I was going to seminary.
Part of it was me and my earlier lack of openness about my faith. One anecdote tells it all. When my old law school roommate Dave Freudenthal was elected governor, he observed, “I don’t know what would surprise our classmates more, that I became Governor or that you became a minister!”
During Bible study we also talked about cultural views of religion. Many of my friends are comfortable with telling me they are “spiritual” but they quickly add, “But I am not religious.” I wonder at times what that means?
I think it has a great deal to do with the face of Christianity in a media-driven age. When people think of “Christians” they see images of Pat Robertson and his nonsense. The media refers to Fred Phelps as a Christian minister and to his band of hate mongers as a “church.” Then along comes “Reverend” Terry Jones who burns a Quran and sets in motion a chain of killings on the other side of the planet. Once again the media love these stories and treat them as though these are actually “Christians” going so far as to quote members of Jones’ congregation, which numbers fewer than 30, as saying how much she hates Muslims.
A couple of self-proclaimed evangelical Christians have inserted their God into the Wisconsin battle to destroy the labor movement. James Garlow, who runs Gingrich’s Renewing American Leadership group, and frequent Glenn Beck guest David Barton claim far-right economic policies are mandated by the Bible. Taxation and deficit spending violate the Ten Commandments’ prohibition on theft. According to Barton an estate tax is “absolutely condemned” by the Bible as the “most immoral” of taxes and Jesus, condemned the capital gains tax and minimum wage. These guys give new meaning to the Golden Calf.
Last Monday's Denver Post included an article about the mental and physical health attributes of Yoga. There in the story is a “Christian” minister preaching warnings to his adherents. “Yoga,” he says as he pounds the pulpit, “is demonic.” Demonic? Yoga?
I had a professor in seminary who told us preacher-wannabes repeatedly that pastors needed to be very careful about what they said, “because someone out there might just believe it.” I am reminded of a local minister who worried aloud to a reporter that federal hate crimes laws would imperil his ability to preach the Gospel. Aside from being untrue, the statement begs a question. How the hell can you preach the Gospel in such a way as to implicate a hate crimes statute?
You and I know the answer because we have heard it preached hatefully to divide and to judge…and to provide comic ironic fodder to the writers of “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons.” When I get “that look” upon telling friends I am a Christian, it seems wrong to volunteer, “But I am not that kind of a Christian.” But, I’m not and for good reason. Jesus was not that kind of a teacher. We might want to abandon the title “Christian” to those who hate Muslims, gays, labor un ions and Yoga and go back to calling ourselves by the name used by early believers.“Hello, I’m a member of the Jesus Movement.”