Thursday, December 16, 2004

A One Step Escape Plan

When you started it all seemed so innocent, a Sunday at church, a small check to Focus on the Family changing your voter registration to Republican. But before long that wasn’t enough. You started hanging out around abortion clinics, then you started carrying a sign then you started screaming at women who were already scared and looking for help.

Next you started to look at your own family and it was too depressing to deal with. You thought about alcohol or maybe drugs but other people might notice. Then you found something to hit, gays. Your family was in trouble not because you had neglected them, or hadn’t taken he time to listen, or just weren’t interested, no, the problem was a gay couple living 500 miles away who wanted the same tax benefits you had.

And finally there were the liberals. They were the ones that were destroying you. They wanted you to “tolerate” gays, and let women “Choose” and raise your taxes. They were the ones that caused you and your wife to stop talking and they were the ones who taught your daughter wear clothes that were just a little too tight. Focus on the Family and Coral Ridge Ministries both tell you that liberals are the problem so it must be true. It was the liberals who took YOUR country away. They started a culture war. They were persecuting you and, well, you have every right to hate someone who persecutes you, don’t you?

One day you noticed that your guts were wound up so tight you needed to throw up. You recognized that you were so filled with hate that you couldn’t see straight and conservative Christianity was not making it better, no, it was making it worse. To an alcoholic that first drink feels so good but in the end even a whole bottle isn’t enough to stop you from feeling sick. If conservative Christianity has done nothing but affirm of your inner demons without giving you inner peace, something is wrong. It is not OK to hate and feel anger.

The message of the Gospels is not very complicated. Simply put, Jesus said that death had been conquered and that while we were living together here on Earth we did not have to be cruel to each other any more. The idea was to seek out the most vulnerable elements in society and offer them hope and dignity and in the process learn that maybe, despite how invulnerable we felt about ourselves, that we were vulnerable as well and also in need of hope. It all starts with finding the person you hold in lowest regard in all the world and sitting down for a cup of coffee and just listening. It maybe a street person, a coworker, a spouse, your child, an abortion doctor, a gay man, or even a liberal. Not agree, just listen and perhaps, just for a moment, stop hating.

If you have been attending a conservative Christian church there is a good chance you have missed something. You see, the message of the Gospel is not so much about the bad things that other people do, it about the bad things that we do when we feel ill will toward another person. The Gospel is also about the good that we can do.

There are devout Christians in this world whose view of the Bible and of God is as conservative as they come, but they spend little if any time sending out mail asking you to feel anger toward liberals or gays. These Christians spend little time drafting legislation or lobbying congress. These people do devote themselves entirely to something called following Jesus. This means helping the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, comforting the dying, and working for peace. By doing these things these Christians are strictly obeying Jesus and bringing hope to the hopeless.

Who are these people? When was the last time you heard about the Amish lobbying for more tax cuts? When was the last time you got a letter from the Quakers arguing for a stronger national defense? When was the last time you saw an angry Mennonite on Meet the Press?

To my many friends who found Jesus only to lose him in a barrage of angry junk mail and poisoned campaign ads, you need to know that there is another way. You can stop feeling hate and anger and start to follow Jesus.

Here is a good place to start, its called the “Third Way Cafe” and its from the Mennonites.

God’s Peace.


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