Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Labels and Apologies

1 Peter 4:16, "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Before a Mormon woman wrote the insanely popular "Twilight" books, the biggest author writing of vampires was a staunch atheist named Anne Rice. And her vampires didn’t exactly sparkle in the sunlight.
In 1998 Anne Rice shocked many people when she declared she was a Christian. At the age of 58, she returned to a faith she had not had since the age of 18.

She began writing not of vampires as much, but of Jesus. In 2004 she stated, she would "write only for the Lord." And she found success with these books, as she had with her previous writing.

Then, on July 29, 2010, she stated she was no longer a Christian.

"Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

In her reasons for quitting, Rice says she disagrees with many of the views of Christians. She cites as one example for her decision, an article written by a Catholic Priest that states that: "Abortion and homosexual acts are unequivocally intrinsic moral evils."

But he also writes, "I urge all of the Catholic faithful to treat homosexuals with love, understanding, and respect. At the same time, never forget that genuine love demands that we seek, above all, the salvation of souls. Homosexual acts lead to the damnation of souls."

I suppose since she cites this man as a reason (among others) then we could debate if the statement is true or biblical. But that would do little. If you agree or disagree you probably wont be swayed by some blogger with 8 (and counting!) followers.

So one question might be, is disagreeing with what some Christians think on one or two topics, enough to leave Christianity altogether?

Maybe to some the topic is too huge, too important to stay in the church. Ok. But members within the church have disagreed on this topic for years, and still often worship together, knowing they agree on so much as to still be brothers and sisters in Christ.

We are all sinners, be it homosexual, heterosexual, or just metro sexual. A stance as a "pro life" or "pro gay" Christian doesn't make you a non sinner. The point of labeling yourself as a Christian is to tell people, I AM a sinner, but it is Jesus Christ that forgives me and loves me anyway.

Rice also mentioned members of the Westboro Baptist Church in her renouncing Christianity. To me this is like citing the KKK as a reason for hating all white people, or removing all crosses everywhere. Surely she would condemn people for saying all Muslims are hate filled terrorists because of a handful of them. Why not give her own (former) religion the same compensation?

But after all, "Christianity" is just a word.  Just a label.  Right?

Can we still follow Christ and not call ourselves Christians; because some of those guys are messed up wackadoos; but hey, not me!?

I remember when I considered stopping my love of the Dallas Cowboys when they acquired the player Terrell Owens. I didn’t like Owens, he had a history with our team, and I did not like the fact he was now on it.  I wanted to align myself with a team in which I could root for and like most of the players.

People said I was not a “true fan” for letting this one issue make me consider switching my allegiance.  Now he is long gone and I root for them same as always. Even though I nearly denounced my fandom for a football team, it was after all, just a football team. I would never think to denounce Jesus Christ because some crazies who claim to be Christians, don’t make us look good. 

Shouldn’t “true” fans get over the fact that not everyone in our group is someone we might hang out with regularly?

Remember, the Church is important to God. Can we honestly withdraw from the church and still be followers of Christ it means so much to Him?

Father Robert Barron says he does not think what Rice is doing is actually possible.  To "follow Christ but leave the church."

"The church is not an organization primarily, it is an organism.  It's a living body."

John 15:5  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Barron also mentions how God says "Saul, why do you persecute me?"  Saul is going to persecute the church, not God specifically.  "That's the intimate connection between the head and his mystical body," says Barron.

Followers of Jesus Christ were first called “Christians” in Antioch [acts 11:26] because their behavior, activity, and speech were like Christ.  It was originally used by the unsaved people of Antioch as a kind of contemptuous nickname used to make fun of the Christians.  It literally means, “belonging to the party of Christ” or an “adherent or follower of Christ.”

That sounds pretty good.  I embrace that title even as I fall far short of deserving it.

Why should we want to distance ourselves or apologize for 'belonging to the party of Christ"?

Jay Bakker, one of the more well known "Hipster Preachers" of today has as his church motto, "Religion Kills."  He famously put as an ad for his church, “'As Christians, we are sorry for being self-righteous judgmental bastards.'"   Revolution NYC: A church for people who have given up on church.”

Christianity has enough detractors.  It feels to me like Bakker and others way of reaching out is saying "its ok to hate us, we kind of hate us too."  I have heard Bakker speak both in person and in talks online.  I never feel lifted up.  While that could be looked at as just a preference of style, I feel it is because you sense his dislike for the "group" he belongs to.  His disgust for fellow Christians who disagree with him on these social issues is palpable, even when he isn't talking about them; though he talks about them a lot. 

Most hipsters enjoy Bob Dylan.  He needs to hear one of Dylan's great lyrics..."Serve God and be Cheerful."

He preaches tolerance and seems completely intolerant of Christians; who have reached an honest and studied opinion that happens to differ from his own. 

Christians are often targets in this world. But a big problem with that is, we often seem to paint the bullseye on our chest and tell others to shoot.

This fad of Christians apologizing for being Christian; is it what Jesus would want from us?  To apologize for being something that literally says we are followers of Christ?

We are so PC and apologetic to not offend anyone, we are ok with denying who we are.

Then by standing for everything we indeed stand for nothing and have an apostate religion.

How easy is it to be fishers of men when asked if we are Christian, we must say..."well kind of, I mean no, but, see..."

How much respect do people have for us when we seem to not even want to admit to following what should be the most proud thing in our lives?

“Yeah I’m a Christian, but I'm not like those. You can like me. I don’t mind how you act or what you do, if that's what it takes.”

"But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become." -Anne Rice

I agree that Christ is most important. But who has ever said that being a Christian means following you or me? You try to be a good example, but if following someone was all it took, no one would need Christ.

I  remember Bono being interviewed once, in where he said he did not feel worthy to be called a Christian. He was "inspired to be worthy of the word." He also said before and after this interview that he was in fact a Christian, he was not denouncing anything. He just felt the word was so big as to hope to be worthy of it. This feels to me to be the antithesis of Rice's conclusion.

Bono feels he is not worthy of Christianity. Rice feels Christianity is not worthy of her.

 Does Rice not see the Christians she has left as worthy of her tolerance, acceptance and love?  Gifts she has given to others.

But if Rice continues to reject us Christians, that’s fine.  We should make sure we do not reject her.  As Father Robert Barron says to Rice, “Come back, come home.  Cuz we need you."

It is one label worth having.

Sorry, that's just how I feel.

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