I recently spoke at a rally for Michigan workers here in Battle Creek. I said some political stuff (in a values and hypocrisy kind of way, not so much party-line kind of way. You can see the video here). One of those who attended the rally found me later on Facebook and thanked me for being a Christian leader who was willing to “address the issues that most skirt around.” It got me thinking, and I responded that it saddens me that progressive people of faith have not been effective at articulating a faith-based vision of social justice and love; and that in this vacuum, much more extreme voices have dominated the public discourse. Consequently, “Christian” has practically become synonymous with “asshole” in recent years, and I am very eager to chip away at the walls my co-believers have erected, wherever and however I can.
But it is also true that for what it’s worth, things are actually changing rapidly among Christians. On the one hand, progressives are getting bolder and better at naming their values, but there is also an emerging debate raging among evangelicals themselves these days as seen in the recent storm of controversy over Rob Bell‘s new book, Love Wins. On the surface, all the uproar is about whether and how to interpret the doctrine of hell, but in the wise words of my CPE director, “the issue is not the issue.” In this case, the underlying issue is ultimately about whether or not the Christian church can finally embrace a God who is capable of acting in ways that are beyond our imagination: can we keep God in a box or not? Because it is our precisely our declaration that we’ve got God figured out and you don’t, that allows Christians to adopt a posture of violence and exclusion toward the rest of the world. But on the other hand, if we are finally ready, after 2,000 years and counting, to concede that people are in relationship with God in ways that are not ours, and that we need not necessarily embrace, understand, condone, nor condemn, just imagine how different the world could be? What if the majority of children grew up in a society (and faith tradition) that is both profoundly faithful yet acknowledges the reality of different beliefs and understandings? What if the response to difference was not to try and establish that which is ‘true’ or ‘correct,’ but rather to get curious about it, and to get curious about the beliefs we ourselves hold true?
Anyway, I’m glad to be part of a changing world, in relationship with a God who is ever breathing new life into our dusty lungs.