You may think a lot of my recent blogs have been critical of some evangelicals.
Yes they have.
And it may seem like I enjoy pointing out their misdeeds and oddities.
But not for the reasons you might think.
I do it for Jesus.
I realize that last sentence makes me sound like another self-serving fanatic, but hear me out.
A lifetime ago I worked for someone who was smart, inquisitive, well-read, and loved nothing more than a good debate. I can recall spending extended hours explaining or defending my christian beliefs under his withering scrutinies. Sometimes it was fun, sometimes challenging, sometimes exhausting. I learned a lot about christianity during those days, though: things to cling to, things to let go.
On one occasion he jokingly told me that I knew religion so well I could probably start my own church and get rich in the process. I laughingly agreed. Then, as I thought about it a moment longer I realized that … yes, I seriously could do that! I knew this evangelical thing inside and out – I could produce the key words, answers, emotions, visions that christians were looking for and I could likely convince them to finance any project I proposed.
Obviously I never got around to trying out my theory because I don’t have any tax-exempt ministries named after me. Plus I’m currently poor. Nevertheless it was unsettling because in that instant I realized how vulnerable christians can be to anyone who will feed them honeyed words and cultured facts.
Guess what? It happens all the time in evangelicalism.
who are we?
Whatever the definition of ‘evangelical’ might be (and there are many), the public mind has come to see them as narrow, mean, foolish. Many ‘christian’ ideas being passed around these days are not christian, not biblical, not even true. I gotta tell ya, it is enormously frustrating and discouraging because big slices of evangelicalism are nowhere near Jesus.
The intention of my blog is never to be cutting or critical – I just refuse to allow the most wonderful way of life to be poisoned by bad politics and cheap beliefs. It’s popular for christians on all sides to say, “Nobody’s perfect, we have to find a way to get along”. That’s true but also deceptive. What if the teachings around me are anti-Jesus? What if my silence contributes to toxicity in the faith? What if ‘getting along’ allows untruth to swallow up the innocent?
Never forget that it was the truth-seekers who were loyal to Jesus while the religious leadership plotted against him. Jesus strongly resisted those who distorted God; his truths were soothing to the innocent but hateful to the guilty. He always stayed centred in tenderness and love and I have to do my best to honour that.
back to basics
I overheard something wonderful a few days ago. I eavesdropped on a conversation as a mother shared how she tells her young child about Jesus: simple stories, prayerful thankfulness, talking to ‘baby Jesus’.
It was enough to make the world right again. A mother’s heart brought the word ‘christian’ back to its rightful place in my head and soul. I realized that Jesus is still in the hearts of christians around the world and the truest ones have a deep, quiet faith that is … well, beautiful.
In that moment I was reminded, blessed, healed.
Looking back, Jesus was handed to me by imperfect people who nevertheless loved him above all. When everything else was shifting and scarce, that same Jesus became my rock, my bread, my water. It is Jesus who has been the constant in my life and who has walked with me into all my new places. It is that Jesus who is Way, Truth, Life.
So when I see anyone twisting him into an idol of their own making it saddens me, and when I see people honouring him, it fuels my resolve.
We get sidetracked sometimes but christian faith should always be measured against the life and words of Jesus. I admit I’m sometimes clumsy, but I don’t want to betray that Jesus. I won’t let go of that Jesus. The world needs that Jesus.