There come times in ones life when you must admit to something. I have admitted to many things, including that I have indeed been wrong on many occasions, and am sure I will be wrong many more times. But there is an admission that I have not made, that I have decided it is time to make. I am stepping out…
I am not a conservative evangelical Christian. I really don’t like christian music, I don’t enjoy singing in church, I don’t even like going to church, I’d rather not set foot in a christian book store, you will not catch me buying anything overtly labeled “Christian”, and I am a little suspicious of any company that advertises that they are christian. I also am saddened by the mixture of Christianity and nationalistic pride, christian leaders that endorse war, fear-mongering from the pulpit, christians that “trash talk” Democrats, Liberals, Feminists, Environmentalists, welfare recipients, presidential candidates, rednecks, Mexicans, Muslims, Catholics, Pentacostals, Southern Baptists, Free Methodists, Athiests, fellow motorists, and … well, anyone. Yep, it really does give me an icky feeling in my stomach. I have it right now.
So what am I? Do I have to say? To those who would claim to be christian, I might seem a liberal tree-hugger, and compared to the average consumer, my ideas may seem to lean toward communism. So, to make things easier, I will outline my core values, and you can make up whatever label you prefer.
I do still believe in God, and that he somehow made this incredible universe at least partially for us, but mostly to enjoy for himself. I think that we fit in there because, as he made us somewhat free agents, we can somehow please him more than the rest of the stuff he made. At some point we took that freedom, and twisted it and that did not really make him very happy. He decided that, at great pain to himself, he would extend a favor to us despite our twistedness, and in fact show us how to undo the kinks.
Yes, I know, I did not mention Jesus, or the cross, or the bible. Those are all parts of it, but the terms themselves do not add anything to the story. I do believe that Jesus was much more than a very wise man, and I think that his personal example, as recorded in what we call the gospels, is probably the best example there ever was. The horrible way that he died, and the events following that death are very significant, but to what extent we will not truely know until later.
So there is the theology section. Now, on to regular everyday life. I believe that God made the world that made me. I believe that God cares not just about people, but also about all the other stuff he made, and if we care at all about God, we will also care about his stuff. When I say “care about”, I do not just mean disapointed if something happens to it. I mean really take an interest, and be actively invovled in taking care of it, in the same way that you would “take care” of your ailing aunt, or your new infant. Not how a gangster would “take care of it.” This means be good to yourself, your fellow two-legged-rational beings, the other creatures around you, the bit of dust that keeps producing the stuff that keeps us alive, and the elements that we are built from. Be good means more than don’t be bad. Being good involves active choices for doing things that are beneficial. There are some virtues that describe this type of good: self-discipline, humility, justice, mercy, compassion, charity, love, and grace.
As it turns out, these virtues were the primary teachings and example of Jesus. Some of the other things he taught or lived were simplicity, intolerance of religious facades, modesty, integrity, perserverance, community, stewardship, and self-sacrifice (literally!). Those are the values or virtues that I see as the core of what Jesus taught and lived. If I take him as a excellent teacher and example, those become the core values for which I yearn and strive. The other stuff? Church service, Sunday school, daily devotions, quiet time, yearly bible, praise music, “the experience”, full-time ministry, excecutive pastors, assistant pastors, “emergent”, neo-conservative, sword-drills, memory verses, alter calls, “the prayer”, christian radio, christian movies, christian products, christian versions of ideas that are already in use, christian America, christian stores, church camp, study bible, teen bible, womens bible, christian fiction. It is just extras. I see it as the weeds that grow up and choke the seed. It is the stuff that keeps us from taking care of the things that God cares about, the stuff that can keep us from doing good.
So, there you have it. I think I still please God. I long to please him now, more than ever before. But now I feel more freedom to follow Jesus more fully than I ever have.