I've been thinking about my relationship with the church recently–especially as I get ready to move back to an area where I will be able to actually participate more fully in the local church. My relationship with the church has been sour for the past several years given the nature of the way my previous ministry ended.
I have had to re-evaluate my relationship to the church and my relationship with Jesus in light of the destructive force the church has expended in my life. I can say that now. I don't feel the need to sugarcoat things as if God needs me to defend the church. My relationship with Jesus has actually become fuller now that me and the church have an understanding. So here's a preliminary post on some thoughts I have about things Christians can do better.
First, I think can Christians can read the Bible better. What I have learned is that many of the so-called arguments we postulate are formulated by taking the bible as a collection of verses instead of reading it as a whole book, one long story. It ends in the same place it begins: God creating. And from front to back it is a book about God's relentless pursuit of humans–his love for us. I think one of the worst things to ever happen to the Bible was that it was turned into verses and chapters and collections instead of being allowed to remain one long story. It is a cohesive story. It should be read as such. Everything else in this post flows from this key point.
Second, I think Christians do not do politics well. Mostly this is because we have done Bible reading poorly. I'm not saying Christians ought not have political opinions. I'm not even saying we shouldn't affiliate with a particular political party (although we should be wary of those aspiring to office and those who ultimately assume office.) In fact, I think we should support some candidates and then oppose them with great vigor after they are elected. Ultimately, though my point is that most of the so-called propositions (in regard to politics) we put forth as Christians are based on some sketchy readings of Scripture. (See: Dispensationalism)
Third, I think Christians ought to be more liberal when it comes to love and grace and more conservative when it comes judgment. Do we think God's grace will be less than what demonstrate to people? Seriously. It remains a mystery to me that in this world there are Christians who will support war at any level, for any reason. When it comes to war and conflict Christians ought to be the first group organizing protests and writing angry letters to the masters of war who promulgate such atrocities in the name of Solomon who once wrote that 'there is a time for war.' Just because there is a time for war doesn't mean Christians ought to be lining up and offering unmitigated, unthoughtful support.
Can I say this? Can I say that I find the whole notion of war appalling? Can I say that I find the entire idea of hostilities and violence to be utterly without biblical or Messianic support? Can I say that we should in no way support the masters of war, the principalities, the authorities that Jesus exposed on the cross and dismantled through his death? Can I just say that when I think of the death perpetuated in the name of anything my heart breaks and my soul cracks. There should be widespread opposition to war in every single church in America and around the world. Our doors should be places overflowing with love and grace and welcome and signs that say things like, "Come to me all you who are weak and heavy with burden. I will give you rest."
Why are some of the loudest voices of opposition to war coming from those who are mere secularists? Why does it seem that only the 'liberal' theologians oppose violence and oppression? Where are the conservative theological voices being raised in opposition to death and violence and hatred and oppression? Again, I believe that our seemingly unwavering support for any form of violence–war, the death penalty–comes from a deeply ingrained, culturally conditioned, and profoundly wrong reading of the Bible.
The bible is a story–more novel than tract, more narrative than textbook. Sadly, we look at it exactly the wrong way: a textbook to convert or prove instead of a narrative designed to make our hearts swell with compassion and love for God and one another. I like when Peter preached: people were cut to the heart. Would that more preachers preached in such a way that the word cut our hearts instead of merely stroking our minds. Later we read that the Bible divides the joints and marrow and is a sword to pierce us. When I read a story, like The Count of Monte Cristo, I always end up crying because that's what a story does. It cuts deep.
That's how we ought to read the Bible.
There are more things I think Christians can do better. We can be quiet better. We can take care of the earth better. We can follow Jesus better. We can write better music, books, and movies. We can do worship better. We can, and we should, take care of the prophets among us better. We would do well to love better and more often those with whom we happen to disagree. A little love will accomplish more than a lot of hate.
Why is it Christians hold the key to this world's problems and yet so many of us are content to live sequestered, judgmental lives instead of throwing ourselves wholly into loving the desperate and hopeless people of this world? Why are we content for peace to be a possession and proposition instead of a clarion call to those who bearing arms?
Why are we not shouting, "No More!" No more war.