Grace Emerges

Monday, November 5, 2012

On Christ and Christianity


by Brad Duncan

I often ask myself what I'm up to, by writing this blog and keeping up the )open( church FB page.  Is it really doing anything useful?  What's the purpose, etc?  A little bit of existential neurosis is good for you from time to time.  The answer is, I write because it's something I can do, and something I want to do.  I write because I love the Church and want it to be a home for Christians.  But at the same time I want the Church and Christianity itself to change.  Really change.  Repent.  Modify.  Correct.  Be something different.  Cultural shift.  Missional shift.

First I have to say that some churches and denominations are joining me in this cultural and missional shift.  I'm not standing alone in the woods screaming my head off, here.  I'm just joining in the choir.  So, if you're already aligned with this movement of change, we're partners in the change.  I'm writing to help.

One place to find the evolving story of the cultural and missional shift I'm calling for is in the writings of Brian McLaren.  I'm reading this book right now:

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World by Brian D. McLaren (Sep 11, 2012) 


So what is the shift?  In short I am (we are) calling for Christianity to address it's mistakes.  Yes mistakes.  Like slavery, colonization, misogyny, racism, religious violence, and genocide, there were times and events in history when wrong actions were considered right, even God-ordained.  Now we understand that these things are wrong.  We understand best when we look at these wrong actions from the eyes of the person and group being harmed.  It is now time that we realize that Christianity is harboring hatred toward outsiders, propagating violence, perpetuating discrimination, and resisting real beneficial change in the world.  Harsh words, I know.  But it's why I write.  It's why I do something.  The society I love, the society of fellow believers, is due for some real repentance.  

Like Martin Luther King, Jr., who called on Christians to stand up for freedom and to oppose racism and violence, I am calling again for Christians to continue the tide of change.  I'm calling for basically one thing: open your arms to the "other".  The Church is Christian society.  It has thrived by loving itself and its own.  But in the process has split the world, deliberately I would say, and based on wrong theology, into "Us" - the good guys, and "Them" - the "other" - the bad guys.  This dichotomy excuses certain behaviors, done in the name of love, but which is visibly harmful to the "other".  McClaren describes this love.  It is the love for our own cause, and standing up for its defense when it is attacked, that causes us to excuse mistreatment of the "other".  In this way, "love" does harm.  It is Christian society shoring itself up and defending itself against the outside world.  It's called isolationism.  Society protecting itself by excluding outsiders and defending against foreign ideas.

What I'm asking the Church to do is both difficult and easy.  Don't abandon culture, religion, traditions and beliefs, unless and except these are in place to protect your own interest.  Open your hearts by liberally applying the teaching of Jesus in a counter cultural, revolutionary way.  Love liberally.  Don't worry about the potential harm to your cohesive society.  Let down your guard against the "other".  By embracing the "other" you will let go of some of the defenses and cohesiveness of safe Christian society.  But you will embrace our true Christian mission to love the world and reach the world with God's kingdom.

What's hard is that the "other" is people of other religions.  Non-Christians, like Muslims, Hindus and Jews.  Like atheists and agnostics.  The rest of the world.  The "other" is also gays, LGBT.  Or democrats ! :) .  Actually, you know quite well who the "other" is, because it's the people that you declare yourself to be different than. "I'm so glad I'm not like them."  You say, or "Don't ever be like that," or "I'll never understand how someone can ...".  We can't see through our own culture to recognize the equally valid cultures of other people.  This blindness is in fact something we all have in common, Christians and non-Christians alike.  It causes the worst kind of crimes and atrocities!

What I'm calling for is a new Church.  One that keeps Christianity.  Keeps Christ.  But lets down its guard.  Lowers the defensive wall.  Opens mind, heart and arms.  Embraces its role in broader society.  Like McClaren, I'm calling for an end to the hostility  

If you still have no clue what in the world I'm talking about, I recommend reading his book.  In the safety and privacy of reading a book, you can ponder whether you are part of the problem, or part of the solution. In fact, if you email me I will BUY you this book, up the first 20 takers :), under the condition that you will discuss it with me.  Together we can change Christianity.  Not throw it out, as some might be calling for, but call it to repentance.  Times have changed.  People change.  Society changes.  Christianity can change too.  

One final appeal: if you think Christianity can't change, because it is based on the Bible and the Bible is static, then look at history.  Christianity has adapted time and time again. It has addressed its previous wrongs.  It has done great good, where previously did harm, especially in the area of racism, for example.  The Church still has a HUGE distance to make up in women's equality, racism, homosexuality, and acceptance of other religions, just to name a few.  It also needs to step up and care about the world we live in.  The kingdom of God is here, now, and we need to take responsibility for it.  As the keepers of the Great Commission, we have an important role to play in bringing the kingdom of God to all people.  We can't just abandon them, in favor of safe Christian society!  Apathy is the worst enemy of love.  We know it.  But we excuse it.  It's time to end the hostility and open our minds, arms and hearts to the "other".  It's time for the )open( church to take shape.




15 comments:

  1. Thank you, Brad. I'm challenged daily to "walk the talk". I question what my own beliefs are aligned with when I see these types of exclusion. I believe most of them are fear-based. When did we become so afraid of one another?

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    1. Totally agree it's fear. I've found this fear in myself now that I'm looking for it. Praying for more courage....

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  2. Thank you for this. What I've found is that Christians are really believing pointing out other's sins IS being "loving." And I find this so sad. What a view of God they must have! God has never failed to slap me upside the head when I need it, but He is ALWAYS encouraging and accepting of me. We Christians seem to forget that non-Christians see God through us. What kind of God are we portraying?

    My heart breaks for the things being said and done in Christ's name. Keep writing!

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    1. Yes you nailed it. The discussion can go on a long time where the one side is arguing that standing up for God, against sins, is loving the other person and pleasing to God.

      But if someone did that to them, would they feel like it was loving? Love should look like it from both sides.

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    2. Elissa, of course pointing out the sins of others can be loving! Are you saying that leaving people to do stupid stuff rather than encouraging them away from it, is a 'loving' choice?
      What's sad is when the pointing out of the sins of others is done in a judgemental way, or when it's done to non-Christians. But for one Christian to not lovingly point out the sin of another Christian, may be sin itself! The beginning of the 6th chapter of Galations covers this quite well.

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    3. Sometimes we value being right so much we don't see that our enforcement of right is not kind. I think we intend to be loving, but looking at it from the other person's point of view shows that we are not.

      If we're really trying to be loving, maybe there's a better way to do it. Forget about being right, and just focus on the love.

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  3. So, am I understanding that you are going to write a "new" Bible to have these changes in it so we love everyone and things they do? There is no black or white and everyone is okay? Be careful.... God's Word is just that. God's. Don't play with changing it. If he says homosexuality is wrong...it is wrong.

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    1. Is that what Brad is calling for though, Patti? Loving people and loving the things they do, are two different things. When Jesus interacted with the woman caught in adultery (John chapter 8), he told to stop her sinning, but he still loved her and discouraged the others from stoning her. Sure homosexual sex is sinful (Romans chapter 1 etc), but the church still needs to love homosexuals. At present, many homosexuals think that Christians hate them, when actually Christians are supposed to love everyone.

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    2. Patti, I certainly would have agreed with you some time ago. But now I'm pretty sure that God doesn't need us to defend his Word. God needs us to let God do his job. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord" means that God really doesn't need any of our help in judging the world.

      So let's look for our true calling as Christians, which is to be carriers of the good news. Who is going to feed the world? Is God going to send manna from heaven? Or is he going to send his people to bring literal kindness and compassion? Jesus prayed "Give us this day our daily bread" and "thy kingdom come". How are these things going to happen?

      On the other hand, if we bring judgment instead, we are wasting our time.

      Just my opinion -- your opinions are also welcome on this site.

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    3. Where did I say that I didn't like homosexuals? I said that the Bible, Gods Word, says that homosexuality is a sin. There was no judgement implied. Why did you take it that way? I was saying what the Bible says. What do you think the Bible says about it?

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    4. Hi Patti. There are two important questions here.

      The broader question: should our mission be to identify people that are sinful and point it out to them?

      The second question: does the Bible teach us that homosexuality is fundamentally wrong, in the same way that hatred and murder are wrong. Does homosexuality break God's heart? Does he yearn for homosexuals to change their gender preference?

      I'm convinced now after many years of being a traditional believer that I was wrong. The answer to all of these questions is "No".

      Lots of people are talking about this issue. I would point you to some links:

      http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/10/clobbering-biblical-gay-bashing.html

      http://graceemerges.blogspot.com/2012/04/dear-pastor-please-invite-gay.html

      http://www.facebook.com/john.shore1 or http://johnshore.com/

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    5. I don't care about what other people think or say on this issue. I try and live my life according to what God thinks. Leviticus 20:13, I Cor. 6:9-11. In the last days, there will be wolves in sheeps clothing. I choose to follow God, not man. You are leading others astray if you do not believe and follow God's word.

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  4. I believe I am following Jesus by teaching others that their words are judgmental rather than loving. Literal interpretation of the Bible can be used to show both sides of the coin: grace and judgment. But I don't think God wants us to use that Bible in that fashion. It's okay to discuss truth.

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  5. Wow.... How does he want us to use the Bible? I will answer to God and you will answer to God. That is all I can say. It has been enlightening for me.

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