Monday, April 10, 2017

Liberals need to stop boycotting the church

It’s time for progressives and liberals to stop boycotting the church.

I get it. Many of you had bad experiences in the pews. Like me, you grew up in churches that didn’t understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Love God and love your neighbor.”

You’ve seen Christianity represented by judgmental and hateful preachers like Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson. Too often they have been the face of Christianity on cable news and in the popular media.

But, we Christians are not all alike. Christians with whom I share church are polar opposites of these people. We aren’t “Christians” so much as “Jesus followers.”

And we need you to join us in these difficult times when a President, elected in large part by so-called Christians, is determined to implement the most anti-Gospel agenda in history.

If this is to be countered, it will require people motivated by more than their allegiance to a political party. The times demand action from people who understand there is a cause and a purpose greater than ourselves. You’ll find people like that at Highlands, people who share a belief that the Bible should be taken seriously but not literally, that we are called to serve others, that questions are more powerful than pretending to have answers.

At Highlands, we don’t try to be all things to all people. We know who we are and we believe it is who God calls us to be. Kathleen Norris wrote a book titled Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, an expose of spiritual life on the plains of South Dakota. Norris said small communities survive by not talking about controversy – by papering over disagreement, refusing to acknowledge its existence.

A couple of years ago, Robert Crocker, a retired Presbyterian pastor from New Hampshire came to our state. I went to Wyoming,” he said, “to study the American culture wars.” What he found was that most congregations were determined “not to talk about it.” The “it” included the toughest issues facing the church.

Rev. Crocker’s report quoted one Wyoming pastor. “I would not conduct a same-gender marriage, and I doubt that any pastor in the presbytery would.”

Not so. Highlands is the only “More Light” Presbyterian church in Wyoming, which means we are intentional about welcoming the LGBTQ community. One of the most joyous occasions we experienced was the wedding of two men who are valued members of our church.

Croker added this postscript, “Like many other mainline Protestant churches, the Presbyterian churches in Wyoming are trying to move forward, albeit slowly and deliberately, against strong cultural headwinds. In such a storm, there is a tendency to huddle together for protection. That is certainly one strategy for survival. Another strategy, such as the one adopted by Highlands, is to raise a progressive flag and say ‘This is who we are.”

It’s not just who we say we are. It’s who we think Jesus is.

Rev. Crocker noticed something else about Wyoming during his month here. “Wyoming is a wealthy state with many poor people. The discrepancy between rich and poor is notable, simply by looking at the disparate housing patterns. The Wind River Indian Reservation, the only reservation in the state and the home to both Shoshone and Arapaho tribes, is one of the poorest in the nation.”

At Highlands, we also notice that and we preach about it and are focused on mission and advocacy to address this issue and others. We are a Matthew 25 community. If you come, you’ll see we talk the talk while we walk the walk.

There are a lot of progressives out there who have rejected “church.” Now the progressive church needs you and in order to live out your calling, you need it. As Donald Trump would say, “What do you have to lose?”

Easter Sunday would be a good time to check out Highlands. Join us for a potluck breakfast at 8:30 followed by 10 A.M. worship services that I am sure will speak to your heart.

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