Wednesday, August 1, 2012

B45. American Christianity at War Against Itself

As the national political climate becomes increasingly more polarized and as religion increasingly identifies itself in political terms, we are seeing a widening divide in Christianity itself, one for which at this point there seems to be no possible truce. When an entity wages war against itself, it is almost assured that it will lose more than it wins, and at great cost.

Each side claims to be “real Christianity” and is increasingly angered by the claims of the other, often pertaining to women’s rights or lately most adamantly to gay rights or the interpretation of the founding documents of our country, or for very brief moments something as simple as fast food chicken, but at its core it’s a war about Biblical interpretation.

Let’s call one side the orange forces. In the 1970s this army married itself to right-wing politics, blending its theology with Republican ideologies and creating a new political powerhouse different from either of its two parts. Becoming ever more separatist with each passing year, this group of Christians teaches that the Bible is handed down directly and literally from God as God’s rules for our daily living; and when it comes to political and social issues, whatever is the Republican position on the issue is also perceived as God’s position.  This group puts great energy and resources into evangelizing the non-Christian world.

The green army consists of most of the other Christians, those who have not embraced orange ideologies. This group tends to have a more relaxed interpretation of Scripture, often giving heaviest weight to Jesus’ life and ministry, and is driven more to hands-on ministry than to verbal evangelizing.  They are often passionate about eradicating poverty, hunger, and any perceived social oppression.  Politically most of this army is Democrat or Independent, but they generally believe in a separation of religion and politics and do not combine or equate the one with the other.

Both armies are passionately living out their perception of what it means to be Christian, and each is increasingly thinking of the other as its enemy.  The war is not between Christians and non-Christians but between self-proclaiming Christians and self-proclaiming Christians.

Must this war play itself out to the end?  Is there a possible compromise?  I’m not sure there is. While the green army talks of agreeing to disagree, they are leaving the orange churches, sometimes uniting with green congregations, but too often leaving church altogether, in disillusionment. The orange Christians do not mimic the “agree to disagree” compromise, but rather welcome those who think differently, only if they are repentant and want to put on an orange uniform.  And perhaps they are right that we have fought too far to simply agree to disagree.

Indeed, how can a church compromise that women can serve in leadership roles and that they can’t; or that gay people are welcome and accepted, and that they are abominable sinners in need of repentance; or that church and state are to be kept separate, and that God ordained us as a Christian nation?  So churches are splitting.  Denominations are splitting.  Families are splitting.  Communities are splitting.  Hurting words.  Mean-spirited accusations.  We are at war.

To fight amongst ourselves, killing off many from both sides and wounding the rest, is tragic.  Yet, the greatest casualties, it seems, might be those outside who are watching us fight.  What was that “great commission” Jesus gave us?  To attack our own brothers and sisters who don’t agree with everything we believe? (Matt. 28:16-20) How many outsiders watching our war are seeing in us the Jesus we claim to represent, and how many are rushing to become a part of our “faith”? Shamefully for us, many are running as far away from our so-called faith as they can.

Jesus’ heart wrenching prayer for ALL believers:

 I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20b-23 NIV) 

And two more prayerful thoughts for us all:

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.  And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:20-21 NIV)

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20 NIV)


Lisa said...

You hit the nail on the head. This is something I've been thinking alot about lately.

Kathy said...

Thank you,Lisa. Me too. It makes me very sad.

Joyce said...

It makes me sad too. I see my beautiful child whom God adores, and others hate. It brings me to my knees, but only to fight harder for her.
Thank you Kathy for being a wonderful voice!

Kathy said...

Thank you, Joyce. Your daughter is very fortunate to have your love and support.

Dr. Laura said...

All Christians love Jesus--some Christians only "see" the good, gentle, loving Jesus, while others love Him even when He is tough, because then He is meting out justice. Like when He cleared the temple of the profiteers (Mark 11:15). There are Christians who believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and those Christians who disagree--they want a more "liberal" interpretation. Jesus said, "But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female (Gen. 1:27; 5:2) For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and cleave closely to her permanently, And the two shall become one flesh, so that they are no longer two, but one flesh (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10: 6-8). Jesus speaks of God's intended unions, He makes no mention of homosexual marriage, because it is not in God's Word or His will. Arguments have been made that since homosexual marriage isn't even talked about in the Bible, it must be ok. there is nothing in the Bible about NOT jumping off of cliffs, either, but most people have sense not to do that. living a homosexual lifestyle includes the sins of adultery (any sex outside of marriage); lasciviousness (Greek word, "aselgia" refers to excess--primarily used for "excessive consumption of food" i.e., gluttony OR "wild, undisciplined living that is especially marked by unbridled sex." One sinful behavior is just as bad as another. Sin involves doing things your own way, rebellion; not following God's way of living. There are many Christians who live carnal, willful lives, not just those who are homosexual. We all need to repent daily, if we're honest. Although none of us can judge, we are taught, both by Jesus and by Paul, to lovingly point out sinful behaviors to Christians. Maybe they are not aware of how their sin could lead someone else to sin. But the key is to do it with love. Sadly, there are those who are too harsh. Paul warns us, "When angry, do not sin." It is very easy to do. We are in the Last Days Jesus told us about; we are experiencing the Great Falling Away by many Christians. Many Christians don't believe that God authored the Bible; they think man did it. Well, if any of you lost the ability in your hands and arms to write, but you had a book you wanted to write, you would find someone to type it. Once written, could your secretary take credit for it? You would acknowledge that person in the contributions to be sure, but YOU authored the book--it came from your mind, heart and spirit. So then, the Bible was certainly authored by God. Whether we like everything written doesn't matter. God doesn't change--never has--we are guilty of straying from His truth. A proverb says this, "There is a way that seems pleasing to a man, but in the end, only leads to death." We don't choose to believe the Bible because it fits in with OUR lifestyle, we choose to believe and follow God's Word because Jesus says, "If you want to be My disciple, deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Me." Denying yourself means letting go of your own agenda. Not easy, but God wants the BEST life for us, not just the one we think is going to be best. Picking up our cross refers to the trials and suffering we are going to experience when we truly follow Him. There is no other way to really BE a follower of Christ. None of us are perfect, but our heart-attitude, to surrender to our Lord Jesus everything we are and everything we are not, that is what God is looking for. He gives us the Holy Spirit to "do a good work in us", to learn to live for His glory, not our own. Being a Christian is not an easy life, but it IS a blessed life--He always looks out for His real children. Trust in, rely on, and lean on the Lord, not on your own understanding. That is the truth that will set you free, not words that sound good, but are interwoven with deception. That is Satan talking, not God.