upper room daily devotions

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Apology for Christians

In a recent online conversation about "Don't Ask/Don't Tell," the following comment was made:
As long as religion is allowed to influence our government there will be no freedom for anyone. I hope the Christian zealots know what their future holds. There will come a day when the money and the majority will not be Christan. Christian outcries will be ignored and the government will be powerless to protect them because they have set the rules which allow the money and the majority to dictate our laws. Hold on tight, its going to be a bumpy ride, Jesus.
After reading this - the third comment I'd read/heard today denouncing Christianity as a force only for evil - a religion only for narrow-minded, superstitious people, I felt compelled to respond.
XXX, while I can appreciate your sentiment, I feel that I must reply to you. There are progressive Christians, queer Christians, and prophetic Christians. MLK Jr had gay folks in his inner circle. I am a clergy person and I am queer. Trust me, I live with deep shame and embarrassment that Christians and institutional Christianity distort and pervert a message of love, justice, and compassion. These voices disregard Jesus' message of subversive hope in the face of Empire. Rather, they choose to seek to coerce, convert, and contain. And yet, I choose to live my life within the narrative that begins in Eden and continues through the teachings and witness of an itinerant preacher and healer and into eschatalogical visions of a great banquet of plenty. Cornel West is Christian, Jim Wallis is Christian. Henri Nouwen, Bill McKibben, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Bishop Tutu, Daniel Berrigan, Thomas Merton, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Paul Tillich, Sallie McFague, bell hooks, Barack Obama, Dorothe Solle, and I are Christian. The Taize community, the Iona Community, L'Arche, The Open Door in Atlanta, and many other Christian communities exist to offer hope and lift a prophetic word in a hurting world. My little congregation is a Reconciling Congregation - standing in direct opposition to our denomination that still too narrowly understands the fullness of human expression; we celebrate LGBTQI people and their families, and we honor their struggles in an oppressive society. Trust me, I get it. I get the anger, the hurt, and the dismissiveness. I also know that the story of life from dead places, the story of homecoming from exile, the story of radical belonging can be a life-changing narrative of redemption - not from hell in an afterlife, but from the hell of isolation and woundedness in this life. I know that there are voices like Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and many leaders of very large and influential communities (including, sorry RC friends, Pope Benedict) that scream to the heavens about the "sinfulness" and "abomination" of beautiful people who simply want to live their lives, serve their country, and offer their gifts and talents for our world. Let me apologize for the wounds they inflict and the destruction that they wreak. And let me declare without equivocation that neither their bigotry nor their superstitions in any way relate to the way of life that I believe people of faith are called to live.
I offer my response with humility, realizing that it may sound patronizing. It may sound like I'm bating people. These are not my intentions. My heart grows weary when I know the wonders of life within a spiritual community, and yet I only see public depictions of my faith that reflect a way of life that - I can only hope - has nothing to do with me. Whether these portrayals of Christianity come from fringe groups easily dismissed or from the most established communities with the most powerful leaders, I want to claim loudly and without hesitation that there are other expressions of Christianity. Frankly, I am almost ready to leave the moniker "Christian" behind and declare for myself a more ancient identity: a follower of The Way. The downside is that it sounds cultish.

Is there another way to declare that I live within the Judeo-Christian narrative; that I trust in a force that bends towards justice, compassion, and belonging; that I follow an itinerant preacher, teacher, healer, and story teller who resisted Empire and embodied a mystical grace; that I find mystical reconciliation in breaking bread and drinking the vine; that I experience deep belonging through touching baptismal waters; and that I know that I am called to be part of a communal movement that resists evil, Empire, and injustice in all forms; and that I am called to build a society born from an ethic of abundant life and formed by a life of stewardship, service, and community? I'll take whatever name you want to give it.

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