On the turning…

I will never cease to be a Free Methodist.  I am proud of our background and what our church has always stood for.  But I have to admit, I’m feeling a bit misled by the evangelical tradition in general lately.

The view of Christ, of God, etc., that I was taught is only about 100 years old, and it is taught as if it is the only way a person could ever think of God and be Christian.  It is soaked in American individualism, which is actually in opposition to the gospel, which is rooted in community.  It is formed primarily by enlightenment-era thinking, by modernism and rationalism (which strangely has led to incredibly irrational positions on a lot of things).  It is extremely narrow in the way it is typically taught and practiced in the West.  It tends to see the Devil as being external to ourselves, and sees him/it around most every corner.  It tends to be extremely threatened by people with other points of view, religious or otherwise.  It seeks to control and correct, rather than to care and connect.  It sees not only the devil but even God as outside of us — as remote, as far from us, as “up there,” or “out there.”  In so doing, it encourages the view that I must “find” God somewhere, when Jesus clearly said God is already here, and that God is “within you.”  The use of that phrase reminds me of how quick many evangelicals are to call someone else’s beliefs “New Age,” or otherwise label them as heretics of some kind, as if God cannot be trusted to reveal himself to those who seek him.  Since so many evangelicals are Republicans, this tendency to oppose and label often shows up politically in a knee-jerk readiness to conclude that people are “socialists,” or “communists,” or “anti-capitalists,” or some other label that assumes that someone who disagrees with them must be generally up to something vicious, devious, unAmerican, or sacrilegious.

Evangelicals have been involved for generations in the enterprise of proving this or that from “the Word,” or backing things up scripturally.”  Generally this is a huge waste of time and accomplishes little, except to reinforce the egos of the arguers — to produce a victor and a vanquished.  This need to beat others down theologically, to “win” religious debates with others, does not actually solve any problems.  It is, rather, the root of a much deeper problem, which is the problem of dualistic thinking — having to see everything in terms of winners and losers, victors and vanquished, right and wrong, sacred and secular, and — by extension — loved by God and not loved by God.

I have been fascinated, confused, and shocked by how often I will see professing Christians post paranoid, apocalyptic, doom and gloom pieces of hysterical drivel on Facebook, and then turn around and say that in spite of this their “hope is in Christ.”  Maybe that which we hope in cannot always be seen, but hope itself is easily apparent.  So is its lack.  The whole world view is barely held together by a thread of hope, or logic, or anything else.  It lacks a sense not only of hope, but of history.  It is both shallow and narrow (“shallow, and narrow, there’s a fountain flowing shallow and narrow”).

I think this view loves its apocalyptic visions perhaps even more than it loves God.  People with this view of the world wouldn’t know what to do if the world were to suddenly become a happier place — they would have to look harder for the antichrist.  The world just isn’t an interesting place to be unless it’s two seconds from destruction.  And absolutely everything is a sign of that impending destruction.  People are not simply wrong, they are malevolent.  Situations are not merely problems to be solved, they are signs of the end.

Of course not every evangelical holds these views.  I, after all, am an evangelical and I don’t hold any of the above views and I know that many don’t.  But those who speak the loudest, who attract the most attention and form the popular opinion that many people hold — many of them do hold these views.  And even among those who would read this and say they don’t hold these views, many people still reveal these attitudes in their everyday conversations and take on things.

But God is great, and God is good.  Let us thank him.  Let us turn from paranoia, anger, fear, argument, and triumphalism.  Let us stop using God to avoid God, for He is here now.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • thefallencleric

    Thanks, Dan. And thanks for pimping it on your Facebook page.

  • Dan Flowers

    This is terrific, Dave. One of your best. Good job…

  • Leah Evans

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this one, sir. Very convicting in certain aspects, especially when you discussed every theological discussion necessitating a ‘victor and vanquished.’
    In my opinion, we as Christians spend MUCH too much time arguing about doctrinal issues like predestination, “once saved, always saved,” and Pre-Trib vs. Mid-Trib vs. Post-Trib, and not enough time emphasizing the relationship with God. And that’s not to say those issues don’t matter, but, really, why does it matter more what timeframe God chooses to take us than our heart’s condition? If we were truly living for God every day, non-stop, would any of these things be truly relevant? So much stock is placed on rules, regulation, and policy, yet so little it taken in love and bonding with one another – I see that as a huge problem.

  • Destroy your relationship with God? How does that happen?

    • When I get selfish and want fleshly desires more than I desire to be kind and and a servant to other people. I was arrested recently. Judge Conover took one look at the case and ordered me to write letters of apology. He could not believe that I could be criminal; or forget the rights of others (and neither could I.)
      Sometimes I feel like there really is a black horse (an evil, sinful nature) that wars with who I really am (a growing, and normally a fairly mature Christian)
      C.S. Lewis talked about never allowing nominal Christians get too evil because then they would be disgusted by their own actions, repent and strive all the more to serve God. I never would associate with porn, drug, or gambling pushers. But those leaders of Christianity that slip and demonstrate human tendencies, seem to pull me gradually away from where I want to be (serving God)

      • Dave — I categorically reject that getting arrested destroys a person’s relationship with God.

  • So many times when I seem to destroy my relationship with God.He just reaches out and says “I am here, I love you, I forgive you, I want you to grow into a more abundant life” I have been out of the will of God and I would rather be doing my absolute best effort to serve Him. I realize that my rightousness is filthy rags and I am saved only by accepting Christ and His payment (sacrifice) for my sin.