Friday, August 27, 2010

The path is narrow...

The scriptures are full with stories about journeys, paths, gates and such. There's the broad path that leads to destruction, the camel who can't pass through the eye of the needle, the paths of righteousness, Christ's "I am the gate", the man who's donkey saw the angel blocking the road, wise guys following a star... and countless other references.

I'm a huge proponent of grace, and I shy away from the language of condemnation at every opportunity. I'm sick and tired of hearing people tear one another down. I long for people to know and understand peace. It breaks my heart when I hear people of faith castigate other believers, simply because their journey isn't a carbon-copy of that advocated by their particular church.

But at the same time, and as I look at this picture I took on the Appalachian Trail the other day, I'm genuinely worried that a vast multitude of self-proclaimed Christians may have lost their way. I think they may be beating a trail that's a broad, paved-over highway and they're running in a massive herd, barging through wide gates, and missing the path by a mile at every turn.

These folk have allowed their (genuine) love for America, their fear-based reactionary politics, their nostalgia for "the good old days", their appreciation for the service of our military personal, their attraction to "frontier justice" and their love for God... to blend together into a kind of religious nationalism that is so far removed from following Jesus as to be unrecognizable.

Less than thirty seconds ago I received an email from a "Christian" that started with the statement, "I believe the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim..." That is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

The following list of examples is off the cuff, neither complete nor in any particular order:
  • I honestly don't know how someone who seeks to follow Jesus - and incorporate his teaching into their daily life - could applaud (as in a recent email) someone pumping six bullets into the back of a purse-snatcher - "Now that's gun control!"...
  • Or laud the actions of the Polk County Sheriff's office when they emptied scores of rounds into a suspected cop-killer...
  • Or advocate the killing of Muslims...
  • Or go on and on about the 1950's being "the good old days". Are you telling me you like segregation? Jim Crow? Discrimination against women in the workplace? Polio? Locking away the mentally challenged and the handicapped? I guess it was good if you were white, "Christian", healthy and male...
  • Or support (without at least asking serious questions) the prosecution of a war that is killing and maiming some of our finest young people when there is scant evidence to suggest that what we are doing is making the world more secure or the lives of Afghans any better...
  • Or routinely condemn those working as advocates for equitable and available health-care for all people regardless of personal means...
  • Or react with anger (at the conversation) rather than compassion (for the victims) when the plight of systematically abused migrant farm workers is discussed...
  • Or dismiss ideas such as social justice as communistic...
  • Etc. etc.
So I guess I've gone and said it. I think that the number of people who call themselves "Christian" is far, far larger than the number of people who actively commit themselves to a pathway of following Jesus.

I'm not talking about anyone's "salvation". But then that's a concept that is hugely misunderstood to begin with - and another post. What I am talking about is the way that following Jesus potentially affects every detail of life.

I'm inviting, I'm challenging, absolutely everyone to let go of their pre-conclusions, their personal prejudices, and their political agendas... and to simply follow Jesus.

I dare you.



2 comments:

ericpet said...

Well said, my friend!

Ray Gryder said...

It is truly disheartening to hear that you got a vile and hateful email from someone who adjusted for Muslims the famous Gen. Philip Sheridan comment regarding Native Americans only good when dead. As a committed follower of Jesus, I totally agree with the following statement from your book, 'The Unmaking of a Part-time Christian' (chpt 4, pg 57) "I take it personally when good people are turned away from faith by those who profess Christ yet know nothing of grace or mercy." The recent controversy surrounding the whole proposed Islamic community ctr in Manhattan has given the hatefilled, merciless 'theocratic predators' (as you call them) a platform to spew misinformation and ugly rhetoric. We can only pray for the individuals expressing the vitriol and hope that peace, reconciliation and understanding is accomplished through constructive, meaningful, thoughtful and most importantly, respectful dialogue. If not we're going to see me ugly emails and actions. Derek, your response was right on target! Peace be with you!