Towards the end of a recent Sunday Church Service, our Pastor gave an impassioned speech for the entire congregation to “be bold in their faith and stand up for what they believe.” As he was reaching the crescendo of this call to arms, a number of manly sounding “yeahs” and “amens” could be heard responding. While I sat quietly in my seat, a part of me wanted to join in and echo with my own “amen”, but I was conflicted… Though I understood what the pastor was encouraging us to do and I’m 100% on board with this message, I wasn’t exactly sure if that is what the “yeahs” and “amens” were agreeing with…
As unfortunate as it is, the name of Jesus Christ and His church have been hijacked in our culture by political and social strategists, in order to move forward agendas that have little to do with the actual teachings of Jesus. The result of this hijack has become (at best) a misrepresentation of what Christ actually lived (and died) to accomplish and (at worst) a simple legalistic formula of what it takes to live life by your own rules and still consider yourself “saved”. So prevalent is this misrepresentation that I’ve labeled it the “Christian Rhetoric”.
Thus, the reason I was conflicted.
When I heard the pastor call for us “to be bold and stand up for our beliefs”, what immediately came to my mind was that we needed to “stand up for what Jesus stood for” … Compassion. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Grace. Mercy. And Love. I heard a call to go against the ways of the world (an eye for an eye) and instead “turn the other cheek”. I heard a call to be inclusive, not exclusive. I heard a call to “give second and third and fourth chances” and “to love our neighbor” even if that isn’t the direction our society is heading. “Feed the hungry”, “clothe the naked”, “heal the sick”, and “care for the poor”. Furthermore, I heard a call to “take the plank out of my own eye”, to “let him without sin cast the first stone” and to “judge not, lest we be judged”. Though I know I fail regularly at answering these calls in my daily life, when my Pastor said it I wanted to shout out “yeah!”
But I didn’t.
Not because I’m ashamed of Jesus and not because I lack faith. I didn’t say “amen” because I care about what other people think. The irony is that it’s not the people inside of the church whose opinions I’m concerned with, but more so the people outside of the church. For as soon as I heard one of the men in the congregation shout out their “amen”, I heard all of the “Christian Rhetoric” fill the room too… “Yeah! We need to stand up and let this world know what their doing wrong! Amen! We need to stand up against the drinking and the smoking and the cussing and the Muslims and the Gays! Yeah! We need to pass laws against those who are different that us! We might not be perfect, but at least we’re not as bad as those folks, Amen!”
Now, nobody actually said any of these things and I have no clue whether anyone in that church actually thinks that way. But, because I have heard this Christian Rhetoric so many times, in so many different places, it is stuck in my mind.
And as much as I like to say that I don’t care what other people think, the fact is that I do care, and for good reason.
Like I said before, I’m not ashamed to stand up in the name of Jesus. I believe whole-heartedly in His teachings and that He is God and that He died on a cross for the forgiveness of all sins and was then resurrected on the third day. To these beliefs I say “yeah and amen” and I hope all people take the opportunity to accept this gift. But, because of the Christian Rhetoric, I believe many people are being discouraged from exploring their faith and finding this compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love…
Which is why I am conflicted: If I’m not careful, my genuine faith in Christ could also be hijacked and twisted into the “Christian Rhetoric” that divides, excludes, oppresses, condemns, and ultimately drives people away from Christ and the church.
Thus, my goal moving forward is to simply do all that I can to point to Christ and His teaching. Not to my own successes or to the failures of others, but simply to the forgiveness and acceptance and compassion of Jesus.
As perverse as the “Christian Rhetoric” is, we can’t just “shout it down”. We have to “drown it out” with the actions that actually follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.