“If he’s your president, I don’t want anything to do with your conservative church…”
…but he doesn’t represent my heart, or Christ’s heart, wait…
“I’m a scientist. There’s no way I could, as an intellectual, believe in creationism.”
…God Himself is the most intentional scientist of all, if we could just talk about…
“When my dad got diagnosed, I remember praying every night before bed that God would heal him, and God didn’t. How can I believe?”
…I’m so so sorry, I think God grieves your dad’s sickness to His core, when He…
There are a million reasons why individual hearts are uncomfortable with the idea of church, unwilling to believe in the God of the Bible, and frankly – a lot of those reasons aren’t so wacky.
I realize I was raised very differently; my father thought himself god and it wasn’t until after medical school that he started investigating Christianity – mostly, probably, to disprove it. And out of that pursuit he came face-to-face with a holy, incredible, omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God and his whole life changed… and so did ours.
As a scientist, he taught us theology a little differently and a lot earlier than other homes filled with Hallmark folk religion, and it’s become a passion of his (and mine) to have conversations and build relationships with strangers, friends, and neighbors of all different backgrounds solely because each heart is worth it. Never with the intent to argue, never with the intent to “win” … in fact, I had pages of both the Quran and The Book of Mormon tucked into my hands as early as Jr. High.
One thing I love and admire about my dad is this:
“Kate Elizabeth, don’t you dare assume that whoever you are talking to about their differing faith isn’t as equally passionate and educated about theirs as you are, isn’t as willing or more-so to die for their god. Don’t you dare disrespect them by not giving it your all to study what they believe; enough of the world sees Christians as bigoted and anti-intellectual… this family won’t be counted in that stereotype.”
It was that admonition along with a hefty amount of Apologetics and World Religions homework (in addition to actual schoolwork from you know, school) that emphatically heightened my desire to make all relationships, conversations, and interactions matter in an eternal sense.
And while I would encourage any and every single Christian to study what they say they believe hard and ask really scary questions and not quit until getting an answer… no amount of seminary will answer some of the personal barricades built around so many hearts.
So, this week we’re gonna get a little dirty, and we’re gonna get more than a little honest…
What hurdles are there to salvation?
What questions get raised or issues get rallied that prevent people from following Christ? From going to church? From reading Scripture?
(We know that there is the potential to offend in this week’s theme, but my goodness is that the farthest thing from our intent – so please offer grace in spades to us, your Hopers, as we go there…)
It’s Monday morning, your Starbucks is hopefully kicking in, and you might want an easy lean into your week – if that’s the case, maybe click outta here now because I don’t know any other way than to go guns-blazing-hot into this conversation.
You know what’s keeping a lot of my friends’ buns outta the church pews and their noses outta the New Testament?
How ‘the church’ treats the gays.
I realize I lean farther left than many, and still lean farther right than many more … I’ve been asked to ordain the wedding of friends whose marriages only very recently became legal, and I absolutely have had tearful late-night chats with pals who are scared that once I ‘know’ who they’re dating, that I won’t love them anymore.
The fact that somewhere along the line someone(s) decided to put a bullhorn up to their mouth and shout big fat lies into big fat loudspeakers infuriates me.
Who decided that homosexuality would be the greatest sin of all?! That anyone in the LGBTQIA community was less-than or, and my stomach sours to type this…
WHO DECIDED GOD LOVES SOMEONE LESS BECAUSE OF WHO THEY LOVE?
And then how in the world did that “someone” gain so much steam that now, in 2017, being a “Christian” almost immediately correlates contemporary culture’s word-association to “hateful” and/or “hurtful”?
There are cheaters, abusers, and liars in the pews yet the doors are barred to anyone whose kissed a girl and like it? Certainly that’s not the heartbeat of the Christ I read about – who roamed and taught and befriended every kind of man, woman, and child … forgiving and healing and loving, even raising from the dead, solely to show love.
Eight years ago I was living in Manhattan, and spent one Sunday evening in the thick of NYC’s Gay Pride Day.
Greenwich Village was a sea of fishnets, rainbows, glitter, and shirtlessness. In the middle of the craziness, there was one weary girl (spoiler alert, it was me!) driving a mini-van full of church supplies around and around and around the block, be-bopping to a Michael Jackson marathon and trying to find a parking spot.
Roads were closed off, police officers were EVERYWHERE, Roy G. Biv was fluttering through the breeze at all sides and it was clear that I wasn’t going to find a curb-hugging ten feet or so in the next millennium.
I just circled the block and kept dancing, smiling at the men holding hands and the women holding hands and the drag queens with perfect lipstick and the cranky cops, and here’s what I thought…
Have we done this?
No, we didn’t blockade the avenues and pass out beads… but… can we, as contemporary Christians, take any responsibility for the sparkly festivities?
Not everyone was screaming and drinking and dancing and causing a ruckus, some folks were just causually strolling, and seemed to feel such peace to be able to be out on the street, arm in arm, head on shoulder, fingers intertwined with their loved one. Anyone could tell that they felt good about being surrounded by others who looked and loved the same.
Have we spread hate instead of love?
…the kind of secret hate that might not voice itself (or voice itself much too loudly) that says “I’m going to stare at you, whisper about you, condemn you, blog about you, crack jokes at your expense, close my doors… my mind… my heart to you…” so many times that there has to be a designated day on the calendar set so “those gay people” can feel, well, normal?
Have “we” so robbed an entire population of people of knowing their identity of being created and perfectly loved by God, that they have had to rally and war-cry their sexual identity just to feel valued? To belong? To know and be known?
Have we pushed men and women so far out past our welcome mats that that feeling “normal” can be something to celebrate? (Or that being outlandish and wild can be something to celebrate?) Have we figuratively been the ones to create the parades where everything and everyone is welcome? (And with someone other than us on the planning committee, have those parades become more welcoming than our Sunday morning services?)
As I continued to ponder, I tagged out of the minivan so someone else could circle the block till their motion sickness flared, set up equipment for the church and was asked to be a greeter at the front door of the Greenwich Village Elementary School where we hosted our Sunday evening worship.
As I stood there with a basket of candy and a huge grin on my face, I intentionally prayed for all those passing by, gay or not, that the love of Jesus would emanate from every pore. And you know what?
Sure some crazy costumes and sex-toy wielding men and women walked past me without batting an eye in my direction, a few drunken couples grabbed handfuls of candy and wobbled off without a Thank You, some church-regulars were welcomed again, and then a sweet couple, Trip & Miguel, stopped, and ever so politely asked if they could each have a piece of candy.
‘Of course.’ I responded.
As we chit-chatted about the lovely weather, they asked me what I was handing out candy for. I pointed to our sign a few feet away and told them I worked for the church.
They stopped mid-lick of their Jolly Ranchers and stared at me.
“Oh, we’re sorry.” they said. “Why?” I asked them. “Well, we didn’t know this was a church thing, or else we wouldn’t have asked for your candy, we’re really sorry. You people wouldn’t want us. … would you?”
“Duh. Of course we would.” is exactly what I said to them.
Then realizing that might sound more Joey Lawrence from “Blossom” than I had intended, I clarified… “Ask me again, and I will tell you absolutely. We would, Jesus would, totally want you.”
We talked a bit about the church and then they continued walking, but that encounter with Trip and Miguel broke my heart.
No one should ever be convinced that Jesus didn’t come to die for them too.
Because He did.
No one should ever believe deep in their bones that the God of the universe didn’t create them for just as grand a purpose as all of His kids.
Because He did.
If we don’t know what God says in the Bible about love, sin, forgiveness, creation, relationship, sexuality, marriage, purpose, ministry, and Himself – then why aren’t we studying hard?
Whether you want to own it or not, if you claim to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ and you aren’t having intentional conversations, building intentional relationships, and intentionally loving – yes, you are a part of the problem.
And so am I.
I can get so worked up about “those” nasty, terrible, right-wing, ultra-conservative, shouldn’t-even-call-themselves-Christians Christians that guess who starts letting hate win over love?
34 years on this earth, 23 of them spent studying and conversing and wondering, doesn’t make me an expert in anything… but the more I look around I see two scary trenches – one of hate and one of avoidance.
Dearest most beloved beautiful church,
We don’t have to give up truth and we certainly don’t have to give up love.
Living in both takes a whole lotta work, but may I ask…
What else are you here for?
“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power throughout His spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect.”
1 Peter 3:15