Thursday, June 20, 2019

Everything We Can't Get Back

This. All of this.

I encounter puzzled Christians with some degree of regularity. They are puzzled because of my reaction to contemporary Christianity in America. Some, I'm sure, believe that I've lost certain necessary Christian distinctive beliefs and teachings. One of the most common reactions to Christians like me (and yes, I'm still a Christian; in the words of a biblical figure that people used to read about in the Bible, where else would I go?) is to affirm that an "anything goes" attitude characterizes my own beliefs. I, on the other hand, tend to believe that many people who call themselves Christians don't take the distinctive beliefs and teachings that ought to come with the territory nearly seriously enough. Things that used to matter don't matter. En masse. To the tune of 81% of white evangelicals and a whole bunch of other people from other American Christian traditions.

That means, of course, that there's a minority of Christians out there who have NOT lost those distinctive beliefs and teachings. What are they? We could start with Jesus and what he taught. We could start with the Ten Commandments, which used to be considered a sort of baseline standard of common morality. And yes, there are Christians, and Christian Churches, that still believe those things. But there are fewer of them than I was led to believe. Far fewer.

John Pavolivitz gets to the heart of the heartsickness here. I don't think it's going to get better for a long, long time. Certainly not in my lifetime. I think most of the Christian Church in America is hopelessly lost, and yes, that includes both Protestant and Catholic branches. And that saddens me and disorients me. It's like falling into a deep abyss instead of standing firm on what you thought was a solid foundation for how to live a life.

When I became a Christian in college, I was drawn to communal living. For an example of what that looked like, I refer you to the second and the fourth chapters of the biblical book of Acts. Here are a couple of wild statements: "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything that they had." Damn socialism. It's everywhere, and sometimes where you least expect it. When I graduated, I promptly moved into a Christian community in the hood. Our naive mission was to care for and love the poor. That's what I signed up for. That's what I thought the Christian Church in America might be, just might be, about. I read books called "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger," which argued that Christians should live with less so that the hungry might have more. I read "Let Justice Roll Down" by an old, wise black dude named John Perkins, who argued that true racial reconciliation was possible only in the radical construct of the Christian Church, with Christians living like Jesus.

I loved that vision. I still love that vision. I signed up for it. Compare and contrast to 2019. Please have pity on me. I've never quite figured out that American Christianity is apparently supposed to mean exactly the opposite of those values.

I know and love Christians. But I do not love them en masse, because en masse they have lost the plot. I don't trust the Christian Church in America. I don't believe the Christian Church in America. You probably have no idea how that grieves me, but it does. John Pavlovitz does a good job of explaining the grief. If you'd actually like to understand, I recommend that you read his essay.

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