Saturday, May 8, 2010
Speaking as someone who, well, had the conversion experience 14 years ago that I recounted in "I, a Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Convert," we Christians too often fail in these ten ways:
1) Too much money. "Wealthy Christian" should be an oxymoron. In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." In Matthew 19:21, he says, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor." In Matthew 6:24, he says, "You cannot serve God and Money." Christians are generally pretty huge on cleaving to the word of God. I just don't see how those particular words could be clearer. (For more on this, see my post "Christians: No Fair Heeding Paul on Gays But Not Jesus on Wealth.")
2) Too confident God thinks we're all that and a leather-bound gift Bible. I'd like to humbly suggest that we spend a little more time wondering how we displease God and a little less time being confident that we do. (See my post "Certainty in Christ: A Blessing and a Curse.")
3) Too quick to believe that we know what God really means by what he says in the Bible. The Bible is an extremely complex, multi-leveled work. We're sometimes too quick to assume that we grasp its every meaning. Take this passage, for instance, from Luke 8: 9-10: "His disciples asked him [Jesus] what this parable [of the sower] meant. He said, 'The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand."'" Huh? And that's Jesus "explaining" what is generally regarded as one of his most readily understood parables! Are we really all that confident that we always know exactly what Jesus meant by everything he said? Wouldn't we do well to sometimes admit that the words attributed to God manifested on earth are just a tad, well, Greek to us? (See my post "The Bible's Two Big Problems.")
4) Too action-oriented. We Christians could stand to spend less time acting in the name of God, and more time reflecting on the (ever subtle) majesty of God. We need more passivity, and less activity. More meditation, less machination. More reflection, less correction. More contemplation, less administration. More prayers, less airs. More mysticism, less ... um ... cretinism. (See my post "Doing Christianity vs. Being Christian.")
5) Too invasive of others generally. It is my personal, humble opinion that anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and role of either. Being founded upon the principle that all men are created equal and deserving of equal protection under the law is what makes the American system of democracy such a gift to mankind. Attempting to mix the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the resolutely inclusive system of the American constitutional form of government is to work against everything that America stands for. Religion is a personal, subjective affair for the individual; politics and public policy is an impersonal, objective affair for everyone. (See my post "Does the Holy Spirit Vote Republican?")
6) Too invasive of others personally. We Christians are too often too eager to get up into the faces of others about their personal religious beliefs. If you believe in the reality of hell, then wanting to save non-Christians from going there is a worthy sentiment, of course. But the bottom line is it's absolutely impossible to talk someone who isn't a Christian into becoming one; in fact, more than anything else it's likely to push the non-Christian further from God. I believe we Christians would do very well indeed to spend our time "just" living as Christians, and let God worry about the non-Christians. (See my post "What Non-Christians Want Christians to Hear.")
7) Too quick to abandon logic. When talking to others about our faith, we Christians too often resort to a language and line of reasoning that leaves good ol' fashion logic sitting on the ground behind us, waving a sad good-bye. "It's true because the Bible says it's true" is, for instance, an assertion that can't help but leave the non-Christian unimpressed, since it's so manifestly illogical. "It's true because the Bible says it's true" is no more proof of truth than is, "Apples are the best of the fruits, because I think that's true." Christians need to more readily admit that the religious experience -- no matter how riveting and real it is to the person experiencing it -- remains a subjective phenomenon, and talk about it that way. (See my "Let's Be Real: No One 'Walks' and 'Talks' with Jesus.")
8) Too fixated on homosexuality. Can we Christians stop already with the gay and lesbian fixation? I know many of us understand our stance on the matter to be unassailably Biblical. I know a great many of us are deeply concerned about the "homosexual agenda." I know. We all know. Maybe Christians could just give that issue a rest for a while. It's not like gay and lesbian people are going anywhere. They'll all be there when we get back. Maybe -- for just a week, a day, a month -- we could concern ourselves with something else, and let them be. (See my post "Christians: When It Comes to Homosexuality, Man Up.")
9) Too insular. When I became a Christian, one of the things that most amazed me about Christians is the degree to which they tend to hang out only with other Christians. We should stop doing that. How are we supposed to share Christ's love with non-Christians (which we're forever saying we want to do) when we barely know any non-Christians? Time to widen that social base, I say. (Plus, Christian or not, we still want to throw good, fun parties, don't we? Well, let's face it: The heathen class has all the good music. We might as well invite a few of them to our next party. Maybe they'll bring their CD's!) (See my post, "My Answer to Christians Denouncing R. Crumb's "Genesis Illustrated.")
10) Too uneducated about Christianity. Generally speaking (which of course is the most offensive way to speak about any group of people), Christians tend to embarrass themselves by knowing so little about either the Bible or the history of Christianity. Believing that the Bible is the word of God, for instance, is one thing; knowing nothing about the long process by which men decided which texts would and wouldn't make it into the Bible is another. It's not that all Christians should be full-on theologians or historians. But if you're a Christian who doesn't know the Great Schism from The Great Santini, or the Diet of Worms from ... well, the diet of worms, then you've got some homework to do.
What a disappointment CNN's coverage was tonight. But WOW, did Rachel Maddow ever hit it out of the park! JMG reader Curtis observed on Facebook: "The difference in reporting between the two is notable. Probably not coincidental that one is out and one is not."
We would like to share this open letter to President Obama from Gov. Howard Dean, calling on the President to follow through on his promise to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this year.
Dear Mr. President,
When you delivered your State of the Union address in January, you eloquently spoke the following words to Congress and the nation:
"We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it..."
"This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It's the right thing to do."
At the time, we seemed to be making progress. You committed to finally end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy once and for all, this year. Then in February, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a congressional hearing that "we have received our orders from the Commander-in- Chief and we are moving out accordingly." Both announcements were heartening.
However, as you know, Secretary Gates sent a letter to House Armed Services Chair Ike Skelton on April 30 which appears to indefinitely delay the possibility of moving forward with the repeal of DADT until the Pentagon completes a review of the policy.
In his response, Aubrey Sarvis, Executive Director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said:
"As a result of the Commander in Chief's decision to defer to Secretary Gates' wishes and timeline, gay service members will continue to be treated as second class citizens, and any sense of fairness may well have been delayed for yet another year, perhaps for another decade."
I share the concerns of Mr. Sarvis. And so do millions of Americans, as reflected in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing 75% support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Americans clearly understand that if someone is brave enough to take a bullet for the USA, then they should have the same equal rights guaranteed to every American under the law -- whether they are serving in the military, or when they come home.
While I understand the need to research how repealing DADT will affect members of the military, the law can still be repealed with an implementation timeline this year.
The time to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is now. I urge you to take immediate action to insure that Congress includes the repeal of DADT -- with an implementation timeline -- in the Defense Authorization bill currently under consideration.
I am sharing this open letter with my friends in the Courage Campaign and Democracy for America communities, thousands of whom will join me in signing a petition asking you to take leadership to repeal DADT this year. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here:
One of our nation's most precious and fundamental values is the guarantee of equal rights for every American.
Gay and lesbian Americans have demonstrated their courage and given their lives in service to our country since our nation's military was founded. Now it's time to allow them to say who they are.
On behalf of Courage Campaign and Democracy for America members, thank you for your consideration of this critical national security issue.
Gov. Howard Dean, MD
Founder, Democracy for America
P.S. On Tuesday, May 11, more than 300 military veterans will gather in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to repeal DADT this year. If you haven't heard about this event, being organized by Servicemembers United and the Human Rights Campaign in partnership with a broad coalition of organizations including the Courage Campaign, please click the link below:
The Courage Campaign is a multi-issue online organizing network that empowers more than 700,000 grassroots and netroots supporters to push for progressive change and full equality in California and across the country.
To support our campaign to repeal DADT, please chip in what you can today: