24 September 2005

What's Missing?

So I'm **still** reading Searching For God Knows What, by Donald Miller. It's my bed time reading, which means that sometimes I re-read the same several paragraphs several days in a row before I feel like I really know what I've read and can go on. Not that the writing is all that deep, it's that's how tired I am when I go to bed and read at night.

In the latest chapter Don related how he was once teaching a class at a local Christian college. It was a Bible class. One period he decided to present **the Gospel**. He told the students, (who were all bright, intelligent, Christian young people) that he was going to leave something crucial out. He told them this ahead of time so that they could be listening to hear what was missing. Then he presented **the Gospel** ... the whole thing, the beauty of creation, the Fall, death, morality, etc., etc. God loves us, salvation ... everything but he left Jesus out of it (I'm still not sure how he managed it, but remember I'm reading this at night). And those bright young things never missed it. At first I was shocked, and this was one of the sections I had to read again.

And then the LightHusband began to relay a drama that he has been in the midst of. A certain friend who is a very strong "Christian" (we'll call him Jim) had become very angry with another friend (we'll call him Brian) and behaved in a very angry manner. Brian had responded by saying (essentially -- and in an e-mail), "Hey, wait a minute, aren't you supposed to be religious? The things you say are not lining up with the way you are behaving right now." Jim responded with, "Hey I'm forgiven, I'm not perfect and anyway, I've got Jesus, so I don't have to be perfect. It's not about how I act, it's about what I believe." And continued on and on in a vein that completely absolved himself of any wrong-doing. And tho he mentioned Jesus by name several times, the Jesus who loved people and was merciful and gracious and loving was not part of the "conversation." Don't get me wrong, on his better days, Jim totally believes that he has a burden to "share Jesus" with others. But he's somehow managed to compartmentalize his life in such a way that he doesn't need to change his behavior at all in response to his relationship with his Savior.

I've been thinking about these kinds of things a lot lately. Sometimes they make me angry. Other times sad. I've been trying to sort myself out. I spent a long time in a church that had some very stern definitions of what it meant to be a Christian. It made life very easy. But it couldn't answer a lot of questions I had. Questions like the one Brian posed to Jim. I don't believe Jim answered it very well ... at least not within the context of what he says he believes.

I think, tho, I'm finally coming to a place where I can put some of those questions to rest. I think that many so-called organized religions are organized around the idea that they can somehow manipulate God to manipulate their fellow human beings. It turns out that Karl Marx may have been right when he declared religion to be an opiate for the masses. Marx wasn't necessarily denouncing God, so much as he was denouncing those who would use God in order to keep His created beings under their thumbs.

On one hand this knowledge makes me angry. On the other hand this makes me sad and then guilty. Sad, because we should all be free to make our own choices. Guilty, because I know for sure that I've done and said things that are so terribly manipulative in the name of God that I'd like to just hide for several hundred years in shame.

This love standard that Jesus gave us ... to love people enough to let them go, let them make their own decisions, even when we know they're bad, wrong, whatever, and continue to love them ... it's brutally hard. But that's where true freedom can also be found and so ... I think that's where I want to go. That's the path I want to follow.

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