How to Try NOT To Change The World (One Woman's Take On Faith, North Carolina, & Legislating Morality)
This week has been a struggle for me. If we, at times, battle between two natures and our Spirit is willing while flesh remains weak, this has been one of those weeks for me.
I have been known, in times past, to rant and rave and rail about things that, when viewed in the larger scheme of things, really didn’t matter. I have been known, in fact, to rather enjoy puffing up my chest to arrogantly and self-righteously expound upon the relative ridiculousness of the world.
I’ve often done this over ludicrous topics.
A dear friend once made the observation, “Save it for something that matters, will ya?“
He had a point.
And so I did.
When To Say What
I have this tendency, on the one hand, to believe in speaking out and speaking up. When people don’t,things like Rwanda happen. When good men do nothing and all, you know.
I have this tendency, on the other hand, to believe that a notion such as fighting for peace is laughable. You don’t fight fire with fire.
I dig people like Gandhi and Nelson Mandela personally. I think they’re made of much stronger stuff than I.
But something happened this week. And it got in my head and I went straight for old behaviors like telling the entire world off. I did this, of course, in my head where it did no one any good at all, least of all me.
And actually, something happened the week before. So maybe this just added fuel to the fire that was already burning.
I promised myself that I would not enter into the political arena on my site, because it negates the spirit and the purpose of it.
Then again, if it is to be a safe space for people to explore their faith, and sometimes by questioning, deepen it, then maybe this is the place.
I’m still not sure.
I am pretty sure, though, that if two topics you’re never supposed to discuss to be friendly, successful, or safe….are religion and politics, I may be up next for being burned at the stake.
I guess I’ve gotten okay with that.
And then there’s this.
I’ve grown older — and tired.
Shouting at the wind eventually wears one out.
It Happened One Night
One night, I happened to notice a tweet. A popular megachurch pastor was responding to an article posted by a president of a theological seminary.
Throw in a priest or a rabbi and it could be the beginning of a joke, but it’s not.
The popular pastor didn’t like the title of the article. The seminary president got snarky.
The article started a bit of a stir about yet another megachurch pastors use of homosexuality in a sermon illustration, and his handling of the homosexuality to begin with.
I bit my tongue.
It was not, however, lost on me that not just a few tweets later the same seminary president tweeted a newspaper article on declining membership in the traditional larger churches.
In my own sometimes snarky way, it was all I could do not to ask, “Do you think these two things might be related? Maybe?“
And then it really happened. And the debate began. And the news channels squealed with glee about all the ratings they could garner because something was brewing and they could stir the pot.
I bit my tongue.
The Next Generation
Rachel Held Evans, an intellectual and a Christian who also happens to be a great writer, wrote about how her generation is tired of the culture wars. She wrote that most have friends who are gay or lesbian and they largely blame the Church (the Church ‘universal’ with the capital C) for bullying, and so on. It’s a great piece. I’ll not do it near enough justice quoting or trying to encapsulate what she wrote here. It’s worth reading yourself.
My response to Rachel was, well, sad. It was to say, “It’s been this way a long long time. There’s always an ‘issue-of-the-decade’ everyone gets riled up about.” So I don’t hold out much hope it will change.
Oh. Not that I think the world won’t change. It will. Social change happens.
And it happens slowly, in increments, over time.
I just don’t think that those who thrive on fighting the culture wars will stop anytime soon.
So….then someone asked me why I use the term I ripped off from Anne Lamott,’Jesus-y’, on my About page, rather than Christian. And someone else, who hasn’t known me long, mentioned being surprised that I have the views that I do and am a Christian.
And so it all came together.
Liking Christ, Not Christians
I, personally, don’t like the label. I don’t use it because I don’t like it.
I don’t use ‘Christ-follower’ or ‘Jesus-follower’ because I’m not emergent. Or at least, not in the ways I’ve seen some.
I’m not ashamed, in the least, to say I believe in and follow Jesus (or try to).
But I don’t like using the label (only used 3 times in the Bible, by the way, much less than the term ‘disciple’ was used but I digress……) because I don’t like being automatically lumped together with the groups who speak loudest, who also strangely seem to get the media coverage, and are seemingly hell-bent on self-righteously, judgmentally, hypocritically, and all the other all-too-accurate terms people think of when they think of Christians, get up in arms about the issue-of-the-decade and generally act like people with a PhD in Pharisee.
But let’s face it. As a note to all my non-Christian friends: Lumping Christians all together in large sweeping generalizations is, well, just as offensive as when Christians do it to others.
So…no. We aren’t all the same.
Not all of us are against homosexuals or gay-marriage. Some of us are for women’s rights. Some of us, way back in the day, even managed somehow to get on the right side of segregation.
Many of us believe you can’t legislate morality. Nor should one try.
Then again, maybe we’re not the majority of ‘us.’ I’m not so sure. Maybe we’re just the silent ones.
What If We Try Not To Change The World
As Rachel mentioned about her generation, many in mine feel the same about the treatment of homosexuals, as we’ve had those same friends for decades now. And we’ve watched the same thing the younger generation has, for a longer period of time. In fact, we had the particular pleasure of going through a time when some called AIDS God’s punishment on the wicked. Which was deplorable and stomach-churning, to put it in the most polite of terms.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” - Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird
No. I don’t think we’re meant to legislate morality.
And no. I most definitely don’t think that behaving in self-righteous, arrogant, and hateful ways degrading, humiliating, and treating entire groups of people as though they are somehow sub-human or less than in any way is at all reflective of Jesus — or anything I see in scripture.
And in behaving in the ways we preach against on Sundays while attempting a hostile takeover of culture, have lost not only those we might influence, but those sitting right down the pew from us as well.
Many in my generation felt the same way Rachel talked about in her piece decades ago.
And we left.
Maybe there’s a better way.
Maybe, if we want to affect change in the world, it would do us well to take a step back and ask ourselves why our churches aren’t major places of healing — or why transformation into ‘Christlike character’ we so like to talk about largely doesn’t happen there.
Maybe, if our hearts did transform.
Maybe if we exhibited all these things together, as a community, rather than keeping ourselves busy taking splinters out of the world’s eye…..maybe they’d see something in us. Maybe they’d see a peace in us. Maybe they’d see love in action in us. Maybe they’d see something worth putting down the remote, or the weapons, for.
Maybe trying humility and service, rather than trying to force and coerce others, we’d see change like nothing that’s ever been seen before.
Maybe if we maintain a faithful presence within culture, like Israel in Babylon, we would get somewhere. We don’t have to attack it, withdraw from it, or assimilate it. We can live within it, and remain faithful.
Maybe it’s time we take care of cleaning up our own side of the street.
Maybe if we stopped trying to make other people act like Christians, if we ourselves stopped acting like Christians and started being Christians, and if we left God’s work of changing the world up to God, the world might change in awesome ways we don’t expect.
Maybe…..if we led with grace, we might get somewhere.
After all, Jesus did.
Rooted & Grounded in Love,