Believers’ Buffoonery and Other Shenanigans
When I employ a bit of rigorous honesty with myself I am very much aware of the fact that faithfulness to the Christian path has not been my strong suit. Sometimes I am not even sure it qualifies as any kind of suit. The fact is, like Jonah of old, I can get bent out of shape and hit the bricks with the best of them. Nineveh be damned; I’m taking the next boat West. I don’t exaggerate a smidgen when I say that the crusty old guy in the belly of the whale “ain’t got nuthin’ on me.”
Discussions with many other Christians and former believers have revealed that I am not exactly in a minority here. It seems quite a few people entertain notions of leaving the faith from time to time. I was a bit surprised at this but I guess I shouldn’t have been. For quite awhile I thought I was the only guy who wanted to run off and become a Buddhist. Lo and behold, there are quite a few more of me it seems.
What I have discovered is that my reasons for being more than a little unfaithful over the years are somewhat unique. Whereas many people leave the faith or at least consider it often stems from some conflict they have had with members of their church or with their pastor. Others have left because they found other things they wanted more than their spiritual life, like drugs, alcohol, junkets to Vegas or another person’s spouse.
In my case, it was not these things that tempted me to flee behind cloistered walls where no one could find me and start chanting sutras in a cloud of smoky incense. More often than not, it was either something a Conservative, Evangelical, or Fundamentalist did or said that sent me reeling. I not only would become frustrated with what they might have said or did, but more to the point, I would become upset over the fact that these folks have hijacked the religion of Jesus and turned it into something worse than the stinking corpse faith of the Pharisees that the Master railed against some 2,000 years ago.
In the past, these events often centered on the Religious Right’s illegitimate marriage to the Republican Party, which eventually devolved to the point that a Baptist pastor in North Carolina threatened to excommunicate anyone in his congregation that had the audacity to vote for a Democrat. After successfully choking off an almost uncontrollable urge to regurgitate, I considered either leaving the faith or something even more drastic in nature.
You see, I am a bit of a loner. Worse still, I am a contemplative loner and in the best of circumstances that left me only two options: I could become either an English teacher or an assassin. Gun shy, I went to China and taught English.
Just last night I experienced another one of these episodes, but with God’s help I only briefly considered moving on down the spiritual pike. I was watching a video clip on You Tube that showed a group of shouting, screaming fundamentalists accosting people on the street. At first I thought they must have been outside an abortion clinic but I was mistaken. These folks were standing outside Lakewood Church on Sunday morning, preaching at the throng gathering to hear their pastor Joel Osteen.
Calling Pastor Osteen everything from an apostate, end times false teacher to the Brother of Beelzebub, these folks were evidently upset that the smiling preacher didn’t froth at the mouth enough about sin, the cross, and their favorite topic, the Blood. Fixated on the Atonement, which is only half of the gospel message at best, these self-proclaimed “Watchmen on the Walls” seem to think that the whole idea of empowerment by the Spirit to live a higher quality life is heresy and Brother Joel is a messenger whose breath reeks of brimstone. Somehow, in their zeal for doctrinal goose stepping, these storm troopers seem to have overlooked Jesus’ message in John 10:10.
One thing stands out, for certain. You would be hard pressed to find an example of agape in this bunch.
Personally, I find the Gospel an amazing phenomenon. You see, the mission and message of Jesus is a seamless whole but, at the same time, it has a little something for everyone. The Gospel is like a giant prism. When you shine light through a prism, you see a different color, depending on where you happen to be standing. On one side you might see red and on another side, a different color. The problem comes in when you think the color that you see is the only valid color there is. Those folks who see yellow, for example, must be mistaken.
It’s the same with the Gospel message. Depending on your need and your character, you are going to be focused on one aspect of the message more than others. This is both fine and natural but please, don’t make the mistake of thinking that is the primary message of Jesus. To look at the cross, the blood, and forgiveness of sin as the most important aspect of what Jesus accomplished is to walk lockstep in line with the school of theology that has held sway in American Protestantism for three or four centuries. That does not mean, however, that it is the only aspect of the mission of the Master, not does it mean it is primary. All it means is that it is the aspect of the Gospel that you hear most often and thus, relieves you of the necessity of thinking very hard about the situation. A friend of mine calls it “The Lazy Man’s Guide to Salvation” and he is not far from correct.
I am not saying that the Atonement is heresy. All I am saying is that when you make any one aspect of the Gospel the “only truth” or the “preferred truth,” you are not only limiting yourself; you are also insulting Jesus and discounting all that he did. And what is equally disturbing, you end up creating disunity, animosity, and fissures in the Body of Christ.
I am convinced that when the Master sees the blatant buffoonery like what was taking place outside of Lakewood, he must feel much sadness. I know I do. When I witness such silliness, it makes me want to run from the Nineveh to which I have been called and head straight for the harbor. Even the belly of a whale is preferable to listening to babbling of these “Watchmen on the Walls.”
In the words of Archie Bunker: “Stifle!”
© L.D. Turner 2009/ All Rights Reserved