There’s no doubt about it. Our culture is in the middle of some major shifting. And this cultural shifting has hit American Christians pretty hard. The world as we knew it sometimes doesn’t seem to exist anymore. And if my face book feed is indicative, that’s kind of stressing a lot of church people out.
In response we’re closing ranks as Christians, restating our beliefs and going “back to the Bible.” Sometimes I think we believe that if we just quote the same Bible verses over and over enough, people will begin to believe them and live by them. Throw in some healthy fear about God’s possible judgments, and the effects on your life of living contrary to God’s will and you have a nice stew of righteousness indignation that may just possibly be leading to some people repenting and turning back to the straight and narrow path that leads to life.
At the same time though, something else is happening. Some Christians are stepping out of line with the church’s teaching. Some Christians are asking hard questions. Some Christians are questioning the very foundations of their faith. Some Christians are saying the wrong things, taking the wrong side, and generally questioning everything that has ever been believed in the traditional Christian faith.
And this, my friends, is not a result of pressure by the world, of our desire to be liked or a need to be politically correct. Contrary to a popular pastor’s words, it’s not “the spirit of stupid.” It’s not relativism or giving in or turning our back on our faith.
On the contrary, many of us who are asking these hard questions, challenging these “biblical” teachings, are doing so because we have both the intelligence and the emotional strength to consider a Christianity that looks different than what our modern american evangelical culture has told us it should. This is not really the easy path. Not for those of us in the church. It’s the choice of the resilient.
And this questioning, this challenging of traditional views, this abandonment of “the way” is called reform. It’s been happening for time immemorial and it will continue to happen long after we’ve been here, thinking, dreaming, and either changing things or working hard to keep them the same.
You see this isn’t just about gay marriage. It’s not just about us wanting our friends to be happy in their relationships. It’s not because we want an “anything goes” culture where we are free to do whatever we want because we’re under grace. Oh, if there’s an argument you have on this topic, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it. I know who you think I am. I know the ways you feel sorry for me and the ways you feel superior.
But I wish you could know the something more. I wish you would be willing to sit across from me and listen to the hard questions without a single pat answer. I wish, when I told you all the reasons why I think the Bible doesn’t quite add up, you wouldn’t assume I am ignorant or hard-hearted or both. I wish you would stop believing everything you’ve been told. I wish you would question a little more. I wish you would worry less about “the world” and more about the Divinity.
And if you don’t feel the need to do anything like that, I wish it wouldn’t scare you that I do.
We worship a God we’ve never seen, who we know through an ancient series of scrolls that have been misinterpreted, mistranslated and misread through the centuries. We have encounters with this God that are significantly shaped by our own cultural perceptions and beliefs. We hear Holy Spirit right and also wrong. We read the Bible right and also wrong. As a religion we are fragmented into over 33,000 sects or denominations because it’s simply not that obvious who God is or what He says.
Is God male? Is the Bible as you’ve seen it written an accurate translation? Did God mandate the genocide of the Canaanite’s in the Old Testament? Is Israel really God’s favorite? And if so why does God like them more than Palestine? Does God wish for us to keep a sabbath? Tithe? Is cussing a big deal to God? What does love really look like?
If you read your Bible with an open mind and an open heart, if you lose your fear of the unknown, the questions are so many more than the answers.
Really, once you stop to really think about what you’re reading, a whole lot of the Bible is downright creepy and awfully difficult to explain. Does that scare you?
It scares me.
Here I live, in the unknown. Sometimes scared. Always relieved to actually be asking the questions. Often disappointed in the pat answers. Sticking with the church anyway. For now.