I love spending time with you, but I can’t stand being around your husband. He’s kinda an arrogant jerk. We can be friends. Just don’t bring him around or talk about him, okay?
If I said that to you, the appropriate response would be to slap me and walk away. You would never tell someone close to you that you love them, but you hate the person that they love most. Why then do we think that it is okay to love Jesus while hating His Church?
Forget the Church, Follow Jesus: “Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists. Ignore them, writes Andrew Sullivan, and embrace Him.”
I’ll be the first to admit that Christians can be jerks.
We are selfish hypocrites who often forget Jesus’ teachings in favor of our own comfort. Andrew Sullivan’s article addresses many painful truths. Faith has indeed become politicized. Religious people do spend more time worrying about things they deem morally depraved than they do actively helping those in need. The Church is too judgmental, too exclusive, and too controlling. The American “God and country” perspective of Christianity is most certainly in crisis.
I absolutely concur! How could I say any differently? The Church is messed up, and I too have been hurt by Christians determined to prove their point. I’ve been called a “supporter of babykillers”, told I’m destined for hell because of my tattoos, mocked for wanting to serve God as a woman, and labeled a rebel because I don’t see the need for arbitrary methodology and hierarchy. When it comes to Church bashing, I am ashamed to say that I have done more than my fair share.
Our generation does need to change things. We do need to focus more on following Jesus than anything else. The hypocrites and heretics cannot deter us from sharing the hope of the Gospel. On all these accounts, I agree with this article.
But,”Christianity in Crisis” misrepresents the crisis.
We do need to be more like Jesus and less like institutionalized and politicized religion. However, this article’s argument for a better expression of Christianity is articulated through three flawed assumptions. [If you haven't read the article, you should probably pause to do so... here's the link]
- Thomas Jefferson’s method of extracting truth from the Bible was beneficial.
- St. Francis is the model of a humble Christian activist.
- Christianity is ” the religion of unachievement.”
Arguing anything about Christianity from the prospective of Thomas Jefferson is farfetched. Sullivan tells of a Jeffersonian bible that cuts out the crap and perseveres the doctrines of Christ. What he doesn’t tell you is that Jefferson also removed every miracle, Jesus’ divinity, the Resurrection, and most of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. The author’s point could have been made without the patriotic sentiment to an apolitical Christianity of yesteryear. Jefferson’s approach is dangerous because it diminishes the Gospel to our comfort level. It deconstructs the life of Christ.
Secondly, St. Francis is not the animal loving hippie we make him out to be. He did embrace extreme poverty. He was all about charity. He lived a pure and holy life. AND, he was a street preacher who told people to repent before they burned in hell. St. Francis was certainly not timid about sharing his faith and attempting to convert people to his beliefs. He created an order of life for monasteries that was stricter than anything the religious institution had offered. Why then is he the poster saint for a more liberal, anti-evangelical Christianity?
Finally, Christianity is most certainly a religion of achievement. The ultimate goal of our faith is the redemption of the world and eternal rule under the crown of Christ. I’m not advocating a culturally Christian government or endorsing conservative politics [in fact, I'm a little nauseous even entertaining that idea]. Jesus was radical and so were his followers. Christians are not martyred because their religion is apolitical. They were/are executed because their faith threatens every earthly government and completely uproots the status quo.
And, it is impossible to embrace Jesus while ignoring the Church.
Like it or not, the Church is the body of Christ. To use another analogy, when you have a broken leg, you don’t think: “Well this sucks. Maybe I should saw it off and just embrace the rest of my body.” We simply cannot cut off pieces of the community of Christ that we deem unsatisfactory or damaged. We must work together to build a healthy body that can truly be the hands, feet and mouthpiece of Jesus.
I am not saying that we should embrace hypocrisy or hateful expressions of faith. I am simply trying to reiterate that we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater…. even if that baby is a little disfigured.
St. Augustine was wrong when he said “The church is a whore, but she’s still my mother.” A more accurate statement would have been… The Church is a whore and she is me.
The idea that you can embrace Jesus without being associated with His wayward followers is a false dichotomy. If you say “I believe in Jesus“, you are the Church. For better or worse, you are now part of the problem and the solution.
So what do we do in “crisis”?
- We embrace Jesus by believing He is who He says He is and that His word is true, and live as if we believe it.
- We live our lives in devotion to Christ, relationship to one another, and in commitment to meeting the physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs of our community.
- We accept that our faith will always be radical and begin to act as if we believe that Jesus is a game changer.
- We stop trying to analyze the crisis and begin to step into our role as the solution to a broken world.
- We do all this in humility, asking that the Holy Spirit would work through us to glorify God.
With that said, I’m climbing down from my soapbox in favor of spending more time on my knees. I cannot solve the crisis, but I can pray that God would teach me what it means to embrace Jesus and be His Church.
How do you think we respond to the crisis of modern Christianity?