A Muddy Christian Worldview: Us vs. Them

I wrote the following in May 2005. I reread it recently and reflected on the gay marriage / gay rights debate. Still applies.

I'm still on the west coast enjoying the sight line of palm trees against a blue sky. I could really get used to this. As I've enjoyed the local scene, I've visited a number of churches in the past couple days. Even here in sunny L.A. the teaching in local churches can still be annoying - even damaging.

This past Saturday evening a cool website led me to an apparent relevant, progressive church who happened to give their platform to a guest professor from a nearby, well-known, evangelical college. I think it was a mistake.

Although this church was innovating ways to open dialog in their personal relationships with friends within their culture, this guest speaker managed to present a paradigm that threatened their voice of grace in their community.

The talk basically presented contrasting worldviews in our western culture, including the "Christian" worldview. I left the service feeling angry for a couple of reasons. First of all, Jesus never started a "Christian" movement. He called people to follow him: to leave their self-seeking agenda and join him in the eternal quest of his kingdom priorities. He called people to love God and love others. If he started a movement it was one of Love - not Christianity, with all its trappings of rules and religion.

I'm convinced that any time someone attempts to define "the Christian" worldview, they assume we all agree on political, social, theological, religious and relational viewpoints. We don't. They assume we all accept what someone in ancient or recent church history has defined as "our worldview". We don't.

What they do, however, is paint a picture that our western culture assumes is the worldview for anyone who claims to follow Jesus. That's why I get upset when Hollywood and other national mediums mock or respond to Christianity - not so much because of what they say - but because they are responding to what the loudest, angriest, most fundamental voice of Christianity has defined as our priorities. It makes me sick. And angry.

Here's the thing that angered me most as I left that service. The entire worldview talk was presented as an "us against them" emergency. Nice. Prior to this weekend, this church had worked hard to develop tools to help their people engage their friends. They had emphasized listening to understand. They had explored where the open doors exist for grace-full conversations. Now, in a thirty-minute talk, this man had drawn new battle lines and armed this congregation with a defense strategy: "know what you believe, be ready to prove it, and don't let them win."

When the evangelical church sees battle lines instead of cups of cold water, or sees arguments instead of conversations, or sees movements instead of people, we fail to see the view Jesus had of a people he defined as "sheep with no shepherd" on whom he had compassion.

Whether in sunny California or overcast northern Indiana, Jesus calls us to be - not against anyone - but for the people for whom he died. That's a view that will change our world.