Thursday, September 30, 2010

Christ v. Christianity. . .and the Winner Is. . .*

"I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  They are so unlike your Christ."  M. K. Ghandi
This quotation is surely one of the most haunting challenges to those who earnestly endeavor to live their lives according to the example set by Jesus Christ - those who choose to call themselves Christ's Disciples - in other words, those who are known by the dreaded "C" word:  Christian

Almost daily I am confronted with the reality that many people are completely turned off by the whole concept off Christianity because of the attitudes and behaviors of some of those who call themselves Christians that they have known or met or observed.  There are many people I know or have heard of who will not call identify themselves as Christian, because they are so offended by, and do not wish to be associated with, many of the people who do.  It is a hard thing to take from those that I love, because I feel that they are missing out on the greatest joys of living.  But becoming a Christian is most definitely a personal choice - and no one can be forced into it (not that throughout history it hasn't been tried, more's the pity!). 

Christians of late have suffered greatly from a very poor marketing campaign.  Efforts have been made by "believers" to gather converts by pushing their own agendas, and not living out the words and deeds of Christ.  Those agendas frequently include hatred, exclusion, division, hierarchies, and intolerance. While some of these ad campaigns sound "good" at first, by purporting to be  truly representing all that is good - "family values," "salvation," "freedom," "love," and "peace," etc. - a deeper look into their operating methods reveal some very disturbing truths.  There are too few people who, having ascribed to a particular brand of Christianity,  bother to measure the statutes of the institution against the stature of Christ.  Too many don't want to have to think for themselves.  They want to be told what to do, say, think, believe.  They want to feel "safe" and "saved," and that they have purchased their non-refundable and non-cancellable ticket to Heaven by simply singing "Hallelujah" on Sunday morning, repeating the Lord's Prayer with everybody else, and filling a church pew once or twice a week.  The saddest part of all this is that so many really mean well - at least on the surface.  But, in my estimation, they have failed to make the connection between what Christ asked of those who would follow Him and how they actually behave.  True discipleship requires a direct connection between what is required and what is attempted.

I began this post with high hopes of being able to articulate my passionate concern for the church of Jesus Christ - the "Body."  Generally when I begin one of my "rants" I have little trouble with the flow of my words and thoughts.  This time I kept hitting snags.  I wasn't sure exactly why until the day after I set aside what I managed to write above, thinking perhaps I just needed time.  What I needed, it turns out, is an "accidental" perusal through some papers on my desk that needed filing.  I happened upon a reprint of the article in the following link.  This "accident" was no accident.  In this article, Shane Claiborne manages to say, so much more eloquently and clear-headed than I, what is at stake in the battle of Christ v. "Christianity."  

My thanks to Shane for his message, for the wonderful work of healing he is facilitating wherever he goes, for his passion and dedication in a world that often does not want to listen, but surely does wish to see.

Here's the link:   
What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?
The following few paragraphs (highlighted in green) are condensed from some information included in one of my pastor's, Dr. Chuck Wilson's, recent blogs:

By the way, did you know that in 1997, 12% of Americans believed that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc?  Surely we're better educated today, right? 
Perhaps not. George Barna describes the spirituality of today's young adult as "extremely wide, often shallow and always compelling." Consider the "extremely wide" category: 56% of those under the age of 25 believe that "the Bible, Quran and Book of Mormon are the same expression of truth." Heading the "often shallow" category, young adults view Paris Hilton more favorably than Billy Graham. Only 30% believe that the Bible is "accurate in the principles it teaches."

But there's good news in the "always compelling" category: according to Barna research, young adults "see spirituality as connected to all of their life, not a compartment within their life." They don't want to discuss spiritual ideas so much as they want to see spirituality lived in ways which make the world better.

I think Jesus would have agreed with them. His strongest sentiments were reserved for religious leaders who "... for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them" (Matthew 23:3-4). Early Christians lived their faith so practically and sacrificially that Tertullian (great Early Church father who died AD 220) could quote their enemies: "How they love each other."
Today's culture is remarkably similar to the first-century environment of early Christians. People in their day worshiped the emperor, the gods of Mt. Olympus, and the mystery cults; others followed neo-Platonists, Skeptics, Cynics, Stoics or Epicureans. Jews worshipped Yahweh; Christians worshipped Jesus.

Early believers showed people that their faith was right by showing that it was relevant. They couldn't outlaw slavery, so they purchased slaves and freed them. They couldn't make prostitution illegal, so they bought prostitutes, set them free, and gave them homes. They couldn't outlaw the abandonment of unwanted babies, so they rescued them and raised them as their own.

Our world today wants to know if Jesus is relevant to their lives and problems. Ken Medema says in one of his songs, "Don't tell me I have a friend in Jesus until you show me I have a friend in you." 

*  There really is no contest - and never a doubt as to Who the Winner was, is, and always will be.

Dear Gentle Readers, may your lives be filled with exactly enough. . .

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