Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Religion often gets in the way of God." -Bono

Throughout my 30 years of believing in a higher power—in the Great Creator, the Intelligent Designer....hell, the All-Powerful-Oz—I have never more strongly felt like perhaps the traditional religiosity that has been put before me to follow all my life is merely an empty shell of what true Christianity is.

For many years, I have become increasingly turned off by the hypocrisy and condemnation I have found in organized religion. "I don't want to be judged, so why would I go to church?" I crave Truth, but I crave it with Love. I yearn for Passion, but I yearn for it with Discernment. I desire Justice, but I desire it with Grace. And as I look back on the different places I have lived and the churches I have chosen to attend while there, I start to see a pattern -

New Community

The Jesus Fellowship


New Life

Churches that meet in empty lots on the South Side of Pittsburgh, the worship leader bedecked with piercings, tattoos, grace, compassion, and service; churches that set up a booth in Park Slope in Brooklyn for community outreach during a street fair...not one pamphlet in sight, but a member who quietly, gently counsels an abused woman who comes for help; churches where people show up in their best next to people whose best is a ratty pair of jeans and flannel; churches that are small and intimate and only spend 30 minutes in worship before rushing out into the community to care for the fatherless and the widow.

And my heart was filled to bursting because, so often, I was the one who needed counsel, grace, love, compassion. I needed to know that even though my life was falling down around me, even though the decisions I was making were becoming increasingly toxic, even though my lifestyle looked nothing like the Bible-Quizzing-Youth-Group-Leader-Sunday-School-Champ girl I used to be, that there was still room at God's all-encompassing table for me, that I could approach the Throne of Grace despite being dirty and beaten, that I could still come broken without fear of condemnation.

And then I came home.

It's interesting to me that people's idea of Christianity is so often wrapped up in "keeping each other accountable," when the reality so often means using that phrase to feel more continue to propagate the lie that there is a sin scale and your sin is so much worse than mine so I have a right to call you out on it and help you to be more Christ-like... more like me.

And the reality is that we get so caught up in who's doing what and jargon and theology that we forget that the paramount mission of Christ was to create a bridge for us to God.
"Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease."

Why do we forget that he did not come to heal the well, but the sick? When did it become a requirement that in order to go to church, you have to be "fixed?" Are we that uncomfortable with confronting the sin nature in ourselves, that we will turn someone away because they remind us of our own propensity for evil?

I have a love/hate relationship with the word "Progressive." I love the actual definition of the word:
Moving forward; proceeding onward; advancing; as progressive motion or course; opposed to retrograde.
As a church, we need to move forward, proceed onward, advance, progress in our course. We need to embrace our current culture and look for ways to renew it and not be afraid of it. However, I hate how the societal implications of the word marginalize those who proclaim it as feisty liberal upstarts who want to destroy the status quo. If anything, perhaps being progressive only means to get back to our roots.
Progressives believe that if we blindly pursue our own needs and ignore those of others, our society will degenerate. -What it Means to be Progressive: A Manifesto
This sounds very much like what a Man said over 2,000 years ago, to love your neighbor as yourself. I want the Christianity of Nelson Mandela, Bono, Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I want to be part of an organization who follows the example of Him for whom we're named. I want to have the humility and strength to reach across brokenness with love, heal anger with grace, and embrace the sinner with compassion.

Because at the end of the day, are we not all made in the Image of God? Did Christ not die for all for the forgiveness of sin?