Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Progressive Christianity: Sam the Feminist

Rachel Held Evans' next chapter in Faith Unraveled is a short one titled 'Sam the Feminist'. Here Rachel recounts some of her experiences with a co-worker at one of the newspapers that she worked at. There's one paragraph that captures what I think is Rachel's point of the chapter. Here, Sam responds to Rachel's invitation to come to church with her.

Listen, I respect you and your commitment to your faith. Really, you’re one of the nicest Christians I know. It’s just that I’ve had some pretty nasty run-ins with your conservative evangelical cohorts and I don’t think I’m cut out for that lifestyle. I’m not into all the hellfire and damnation stuff, and I’m definitely not into this submit-to-your-husband stuff. I can’t imagine telling my gay friends that they’ve got to force themselves to be straight, and I can’t imagine voting for a guy like Bush just because he’s pro-life. Now, I’ve got no problem with Jesus. But it seems to me that if evangelical Christians were the only ones to have God all figured out, then they would be the kindest, most generous people around. No offense to you, but in my twenty-plus years in this business, I haven’t found that to be true. Most Christians I know are only interested in winning arguments, converts, and elections.

It needs to be said that Sam's assessment of too many evangelicals is too true, and that too often. We can be so very focused on winning the argument. We can conclude that everything that matters depends on winning the next election. And as a result we can be nasty, very nasty. And it sounds like those evangelicals that Sam has known have not understood the difference between those things that are of first importance, like coming to Jesus in repentance and faith, and those things that are of secondary importance, like how to live as a married couple. Our reputation needs some work. And that work needs to start with some self-evaluation leading to heartfelt repentance.

There is, however, this. We need to take a stand for some important things, things of primary importance. And when we do that there will be those who will disagree with us. And some of them may disagree vigorously. As a result, they will say some pretty bad things about us. 

Back in the first century the Christians took a stand on something of primary importance, and there was a severe reaction. At issue was how you answered this question: Who is Lord? The culture said, 'Caesar is Lord'. The Christians said, 'Jesus is Lord'. And because of this difference the Christians were despised - and worse. There are some primary things that we need to take a stand for. When we do, we will be hated. Our opponents will describe us with harsh words. And they will have the support of the culture. Sadly, there will be those Christians who will compromise on these primary issues. They will say, 'Caesar is Lord over here and Jesus is Lord over there'. And they will be found acceptable as a result. But can we do that?

We need to be a people who are full of grace and who offer our love and acceptance to all. We are to welcome anyone, just as they are, into our meeting places. We are to go the second mile in trying to overcome any obstacles to friendship. And yet, when it comes to primary issues, we are to be rigidly uncompromising. In those situations we are to express ourselves with as much grace as possible. But we must not give in one inch. Faithfulness to Jesus requires it. And if, as a result, our reputation is trashed and people have all sorts of terrible things to say about us, then so be it. That is simply the cost of discipleship.