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I get why you'd run and cover from the church, but there is more to the story
My friend told me he was a Christian despite his postmodern philosophical tendencies, because he couldn’t let go of the fact that Christianity, and Jesus himself, had a claim on him. It was part of who he was and how he has grown. In fact, his love for things like social justice and peace came directly from Jesus and the Gospels. He held on to his faith even when he doubted, even when it was shaken, because it was something more than just cerebral and emotional.
The pastors were talking about what to do when someone loves our community but doesn’t get down with Jesus in their weekly videocast. (Side note: do you watch these? How do you think we can improve them?) I think there are a lot of reasons for people to be a part of our great community even if they don’t believe in Jesus yet. That’s a good thing, and I’d hardly describe it as a problem. It’s the basis of our mission, in my view.
But I actually have met a lot of people who are generally down with Jesus, the “Christ of Faith” that is portrayed in the Gospels (the one I believe lived, died, and resurrected) but aren’t so sure about participating in a church or how to participate in Christianity at large. (And there are still others who are down with Jesus and not Paul, but that’s another post.)
And I don’t blame them. I’ve spoken and written before about how the evangelical church has almost cost me my faith, so I am particularly sensitive to this. In the United States, Protestantism’s marriage to American civil religion (as embodied in many of the presidential candidates) is a turnoff for people who don’t happen to be conservative politically. Sandi was sharing with her Facebook followers why “American cultural Christianity is not the same as following Jesus and loving your neighbor.” The writer of the article she was commenting on was basically describing one presidential candidate’s opportunism when it came to his faith. People have been talking more about more about Trump’s faith since Liberty University, the Mecca of conservative Evangelical Christianity, hosted the man on Martin Luther King Day. I think people see Trump’s opportunism and are a little turned off with the whole religion—they may not want to call themselves Christian and certainly don’t want to participate in the church. And in a world where individualism is kind of the rule of the day, being a “follower of Christ” among many other identities and not joining a community or a religion at large might feel safe. With opportunists like Trump, I’m not surprised.
After I watched “Spotlight” a few weeks ago, I was further unsurprised. This time, it wasn’t just bad politics or something, it’s decidedly criminal and immoral behavior. The film tells the tale of a newspaper team working for the Boston Globe who uncovers the sex scandals long held under wraps in Boston. It turns out that there were similar cover-ups in many cities across the country and world. It was a systemic and deep-seated. Wicked, truly. For many Catholics that uncovering of these crimes and sins an automatic means of faith loss. The film talks about the very people representing God being the abusers and why their victims lose faith. The witnesses, already jaded by the hierarchy and authority of their parochial school, they might lose faith too. My heart broke as a I watched the film and I wondered, why would anyone want to follow Jesus after this?
I still wonder that, but I am invigorated. People are joining Circle of Hope for the opposite reason—not sure if they roll with Jesus but are seeing something different in our community. Sometimes we get criticized for being too “soft of sin,” or not being heavy enough on the “majors.” But we want to be safe and inclusive and I hope you find us that way too.
I think that joining and participating in Circle of Hope may offer someone a new chance at faith even when there are so many reasons for it to be tarnished. Jesus is still alive and expressed right here.