One of my first posts I wrote on this blog (well on my old, ugly blog) was inspired by a Slate.com article about the rise of the Christian left. The Christian left has been close to my heart since I first heard the word Jesus (I’m totally serious). I know, it’s odd. I grew up in a lovely family that was basically non-religious. Christmas trees-yes, Church-no; Easter baskets-yes, Jesus-no; Good morals-yes, Bible reading, no. You get the picture. How I came to faith is a story I’ll have to tell another day but I will tell you it involves my parents honouring my desire to be like my friends and go to “church” but them knowing that the church my friends were going to would not appreciate the wine with dinner. Being smart parents, they found a different church for me to try.
Since I didn’t grow up in the church or a “Christian home” (whatever that means) I’ve always been passionate about the face of Christianity. In other words, I care about what the rest of the world thinks of us. You see, because I’ve always felt slightly like an outsider, I’ve been forced to look at the church from that perspective. What do they think of us? Unfortunately I dwelled on this too much for too long. For years I didn’t even want to say what I believed because I knew the sad truth of what I would be lumped into (anti-gay, close minded, and in my American context, the dreaded “R” word…Republican). Trust me, I was sure I wasn’t the R-word from a very young age.
Then one day I was feeling my uncomfortable self at a giant Christian conference and I stumbled on a rather ugly book called How to Rescue the Earth without Worshipping Nature by none other than Tony Campolo. For any of you who have read this out-of-print wonder, you probably forgot about it by now. It really wasn’t much of a book and there have been dozens of thoughtful and inspiring books since on the Christians call to care for the earth. However, that is not the point. The point is that I realized was that there were Christians out there who thought like me! Remember this is close to 20 years ago and I was a new Christian. I…had….no…idea.
This sub-par book led me down a beautiful rabbit trail toward Sojourners magazine (another life changer) and eventually the interwebs happened and I could find out everything about everyone (and more). When I landed in seminary I really found more of my peeps. Nevertheless, even with these Despite finding like-minded folks, I still struggled with the face of Christianity.
Fast forward to yesterday when I read a hopeful piece by Michael Wear in the Atlantic, entitled The Changing Face of Christian Politics. He argues that 2013 was a signficant year for Christian progressives:
Rather than discarding old ideas, Christians returned to the basics, shedding some of the political baggage and layers of allegiances gained in the previous century to return to their most fundamental allegiance: to Jesus and to people. They are reaching for a new equilibrium between the prophetic and the pastoral, between mercy and justice, the aspiration of holiness and the free gift of grace.
Wow! I encourage you to read the entire article but let’s note this fabulous point with fireworks and streamers: “Christians returned to the basics…to their most fundamental allegiance: to Jesus and to people.”
This, my friends will take the face of Christianity to a place we are not ashamed. I know, I know, we should not be ashamed of the gospel. And I’m not. I’m really not.
But I am ashamed of the ugly, messed up pile of rubbish the gospel is presented as sometimes.
What if Christians became known for our fundamental allegiance to Jesus and to people. What hope that brings. What if we aligned ourselves not to our church buildings, denominations, budgets and Bible study guides but to Christ the King and thus to our neighbours? I am deeply encouraged by and can put my hope in an allegiance to Jesus and people because THAT is who we are truly called to be.