Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Believe Out Loud" -- obscuring the point

The blogosphere has recently been riled by the Sojourners organization, generally progressive and the sponsor of the "God's Politics" blog that I frequent, over its refusal to support a Mother's Day ad featuring a lesbian couple and their son (the focus of the ad) entering a church -- while parishioners stare at them, the officiating pastor says, "All are welcome." Sojourners' rationale for rejecting the ad was that accepting it might threaten a broad-based coalition to fight domestic poverty it's trying to assemble because conservatives wouldn't associate with it. Sojourners is certainly right about that.

But there's a larger issue: The organization that produced the ad, called "Believe Out Loud" and which I understand to be an association of 10 mainline denominations, is unabashedly pro-gay; as such, its underlying message is not that gays shouldn't be welcomed into the church (they should) but that they shouldn't be required to change to belong. Such a stance spits in the face of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Who calls us not to a "good" or "moral" life but a transformed one. And while I have never accepted homosexuality as morally good and never will do so, there's a larger point to be made.

Which is: The core of the Christian message is that you can't make it on your own because of a chronic condition called "sin." You can approach Jesus properly if, and only if, you recognize that your life is a mess -- an insult to even "good church folks" (which is why the religious authorities hated Him) but a source of hope to the desperate. And rather than cleaning up one's act to come to Him, He does the cleaning. This is the part that many mainline and "liberal" churches miss -- redemption.

My previous church, while not openly "gay-affirming," toward the end of my time there had a number of gay couples who came in (which I didn't entirely notice) because the lead pastor was gay-affirming in many of his sermons, though in fairness he was right on a lot of other things. Over time, I noticed the spiritual discernment in the church, strong when I started, begin to slip and it developed a very bad reputation in the local Christian singles community; I eventually had to leave because I found myself backsliding a bit. My church previous to that was overtly gay-affirming and had no discernment whatsoever; I told my mother years later that we as a family should never had gone there in the first place.

On the other hand, my present church is full of those who weren't always "good church people" -- substance abusers and gang-bangers, for example -- and violence and prostitution have been rampant in that immediate neighborhood. However, one reason the church has grown so much over the past two decades is because, while we opened the doors, we never watered down that message of transformation; as a result, half our testimonies during our annual Thanksgiving service are given by people who are staying "clean and sober." (And though I rarely drink and have never used drugs, I applaud right along with them.) And while many of us still have issues -- I mean, who doesn't? -- we recognize what God has called us to and commit ourselves to knowing Him; my CLC group right now is studying the late Michael Yaconelli's book "Messy Spirituality."

This is why we evangelicals don't mix too well with what we consider liberal Christianity -- for our purposes it means two different and entirely contradictory things.

I see a certain irony in the pastor's line "All are welcome" because I wonder: Will Jesus Himself be welcome? Not just the kind, nurturing figure emphasized in the Gospels but the King and Judge who will eventually come down and kick some butt. (They are the same person, you know.) The "Believe Out Loud" group, in its desire to foster "inclusion," instead is in danger of excluding, in the words of Ron Sider, "the full Biblical Christ" due to making Him in their own image.


NDL said...

Wow, that was great. I loved the line about how God doesn't want a good or moral life but a transformed one. I think that is what our society needs to see from us Christians and needs to hear about.

Mark said...

It started a long time ago, and gave the opportunity for one group to feel singled out; and use it to their polital advantage.Fearing their parrisioners would leave rather than repent.Any time sermons were preached on sex the bibles way;rather than show a "narrow-minded" God's guidelines for the use of the gift.Speak softly on marraige only sex,while bellowing against the gays lifestyle.If the whole Bible were preached all along the :persecuted few" would have no leg to stand on.Even if. congregations might have had fewer members.Jesus loves everyone, wants all to be saved,with repentance.Aids, STDs, baby 's murdered, we are living through all the reasons Jesus, whoi\ is God hates sin.And died to save anyone who meets His terms. .. Mark