A Warning Shot?
In my September 2010 article, “Warning Shot,” I quoted best-selling author Anne Rice’s reasons for leaving the church and why she would no longer identify herself with the brand “Christian.” Her actions caused her to be quickly dismissed by some as irrelevant, anti-church, and anti-god.
Yet, when I heard this noted writer and her proclamation, it caused me to understand why so many of a new generation are saying they have no desire to be aligned with an institution called the church that is angry, divisive, political, agenda-driven, and known more and more for its hatred toward anyone who does not agree with its systematic theology. And I continue to believe, as she has stated, that she and others like her are deeply in love with God, Jesus, and what the Church is called to be.
Losing our bearings
Recently I read another warning shot, this time by Christian author Don Miller, in a CNN story entitled “11 faith-based predictions for 2011.” Miller predicted that with cultural issues involving perceived legislation of morality “the media will find more zealous Christians reacting to the issues of the day whose extreme positions will further divide the evangelical church into radical positions, and turn away seekers looking for a peaceful resolution to the churning in their own souls.”
In other words, he continues, “the devil will play a trick on the church, and the church will, like sheep, lose their focus on the grace and love of Christ and wander astray. Those who seek peace, then, will turn to liberal ideologies.” Should Miller and Rice and so many others be right, we will experience Miller’s prediction and lose our bearings outside of the grace and love of Christ.
One only has to look at the first century when Christians were slaughtered, to the Crusades when Christians slaughtered those who would not convert, to the Reformation where Christians slaughtered one another in the name of Jesus, to see where life without grace leaves us. Today we are again at a very impacting crossroad, deciding whether to “slaughter” one another in the name of Jesus with our judgments, or love one another through grace in the name of Jesus.
We have in the last few generations lost the God who described Himself as love, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful, truthful, covenantally faithful and forgiving. We have lost God not only as the Father, but the Father who loves all, instead making His love highly conditional upon our actions and not according to His faithfulness. Thus, many have fallen prey to the potential result Miller alludes to of stricter and stricter legislation of morality, and of Christians with extreme positions tantalizing the media, all in the name of Jesus.
A church without grace and love?
A church without grace and love is unthinkable. Yet more and more God seekers are finding it necessary to break with the church to find the love and grace to resolve “the churning in their own souls.” They must look elsewhere to gain an understanding of a supernatural kingdom and to be introduced to the great mystery of being supernaturally born from above and impregnated with God’s DNA.
I believe Rice and Miller have their hands on the pulse of America’s searching heart. We all know something is on the way. Forty years ago, a generation experienced the Jesus People Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. We saw the church slowly realize that even the dreaded hippies of the day wanted to be loved and not judged because they lived outside the standards of society and the culture of the day.
About the same time, unfortunately, we also saw the angry Moral Majority birthed as a church counter-cultural move to stand against selective sins while neglecting the log in its own eye. We have never been the same; we have never viewed God in the same way since this movement reframed the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and introduced them to a whole generation. The result: an entire generation or two who believe God is angry and who are striving to earn his acceptance and love by their morality. They didn’t even get the chance, like the foolish Galatians, to start in the Spirit before turning back to the Law.
Love–liberal or conservative?
I agree with Miller’s conclusion that those who seek peace will turn to liberal ideologies. But in agreeing with Miller, I have to stop and ponder at what point does loving God and loving our neighbor become liberal or conservative. Is liberal defined because some believe that God said I love all the world while others say He only loves a few who pray the prayer? Is conservative ideology defined by those who say He only loves those who pray the prayer and abide by a code of morality? Or by some who say you are not my brother because you…(fill in the blank)?
It would be a shame for us to battle over which denomination best represents the real, true Jesus since all systems are flawed by man. It would be a shame to get into deeper cultural wars divided between red and blue, liberal and conservative, fundamental or liberal, or King James Version, NIV, or the Message, and all the other foolishness of man when God has declared He loves us so much that He has chosen to confer on us a Kingdom that is unshakable.
The Law has been fulfilled in Jesus, and as Paul wrote, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Now we are to get on with the tougher requirement of love: loving ourselves, loving our neighbor, and one day, someday, maybe even loving our enemies.
Thank God for warning shots. They are constant reminders that Kingdoms are clashing and change is inevitable.