Monday, August 11, 2008

Where is that, exactly?

I was reading an article in Christian Century in which the author relates his experience of being attacked (there simply isn't any other word for it) by otherwise perfectly rational friends when he spoke of his faith. They asked what he really believed - is Christianity is the only true religion, was Mary a virgin, is Jesus present in the bread and cup? He had a hard time answering or maybe he just had a hard time giving them the answers they were expecting. It's hard to live in a place and time when "Everybody" believes all Christians are alike. They hear the TV preachers and they hear the folks who show up at their door and they hear the news about what "Christians" say on this issue or that one, and they believe that this is what ALL Christians agree on.

Where is it, exactly,where it says in the Bible that everyone will believe everything in exactly the same way? Acts and pretty much all of the epistles speak loudly to disagreements on theology and practice. Jesus spends his ministry arguing with Jews who don't believe the same things he believes about God and Torah and Messiah. If we have Biblical evidence that our predecessors didn't agree, why should we be expected to?

I understood when a Moslem friend asked me, in much pain, "Why do Christians act the way they do?" He'd been on a soccer team and when it moved from the park to a church yard, the priest said he couldn't be on the team anymore because he followed Islam and if he was on the team there would be religious arguments. (No, it doesn't make sense to me, either. He'd been on the team for years and all they argued about were fouls and goals, not Jesus and Mohammed.

Where does that, exactly, that Christians aren't allowed to socialize or play games with persons of other faiths? Or that we should reject folks based on their beliefs. How can we attract others to our faith if we reject them from our circle of friends?

And I keep hearing from my friends statements like "They need to go to counseling. They can't get the help they need from the church." Worse, I hear church members telling me "I'm not ready to come back to church yet after going through this hard time. No one seems to have even noticed that I'm not there."

Where is it, exactly, where the Bible says once you join the church you're on your own. It's as if folks say "We'll be happy to see you Sunday, but don't bother us with your problems. Maybe you could talk to the pastor - that's her job, not ours."

I keep looking for these instructions, but I can never find them. All I can find is love your neighbor as you love yourself. and They'll know you are Christians by the way you love each other. and God so loved all the world that he sent his only son.

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