Over the last few years I have seen the American church deteriorate into a very angry, vocal, defiant, bitter, name-calling throng with enough division to kill any chance that the command that we be known by our love will be achieved. It not only seems, but is supported by numerous surveys of the American public, that Christianity has become known far more for what it stands against than what it stands for. This troubling occurrence and the continual decline in active church membership as well as conversions to Christ leads me to wonder if there is some link between the two.
For many years I’ve been disturbed by the numerous conversations I’ve held with youth leaders regarding the young people leaving the church post-graduation. As with many I held to the thought it was youthful rebellion and in time many would return. I’m not so sure that that is true anymore.
I recently came across a growing movement outside the church realm know as the Un-Christians. These are young people who have grown so disgusted by a church that is so indoctrinated in the causes they oppose that they no longer can tell you what they support. Instead they speak in clichés and platitudes, with condescending voices that look down at any one who opposes them or will not conform to their position. Unfortunately they take the same position with sinner or saint alike.
Recently the author Anne Rice very publicly announced her decision to leave Christianity. In her statement she continued to say that Christ would be the center of her life but, in her words, “years I’ve tried, I’ve failed. I’m an outsider.” Of course by that night bloggers all over the Internet were trumpeting her return to atheism with contempt and glee. The fact that she said the exact opposite was forgotten. Who cares what truth is as long as your agenda is moved along.
This passage has become a very deep personal journey. It’s a journey that has cost me church members, friends, and the general acceptance of extremists in the Christian church. It has cost me these things because I feel more compelled than ever before to be able to articulate and walk out the things that I believe. It is all too easy to become one more angry voice screaming the gospel of hate, but it is a dangerous and lonely road to believe that if Jesus was here He would lump them together with the religious establishment that He worked so hard to reform in the Gospels.
So today I’m going to put a document on paper and into the free hands of the Internet. It is a statement of my convictions and beliefs. I imagine my critics may take this as proof that I have compromised and I am in theological error. For the rest I hope you see it as one man’s attempt to speak life, because life comes from what you are for not the things you are against.
The “What I’m For” List
I’m for the sinner, the broken, the wounded, and the defenseless. I’m for the hungry, the poor and the destitute. I’m for the homeless and the wealthy. I’m for the criminal, the soccer mom and the cantankerous old man who drives to slow and always seems to be in front of me. I’m for my president and elected officials even if I didn’t vote for them and maybe never will. I’m for my critics and will bless those who curse me. I’m for social justice as well as the preaching of the Gospel. You can’t truly have one without the other. I’m for little boys getting in fistfights because someone said something about their momma on the playground. I’m for Democrats and Republicans and those who bravely try to stay independent. I’m for the single parent, the divorcee and parents who work so hard so that their children don’t have to know just how hard things really are. I’m for smooth jazz, love songs and slow dancing with my wife under the moonlight. I will pray for the peace of Israel but I will also pray for peace for their Arab brothers. I’m for religious freedom even for those who don’t worship the same god that I do. I’m for long dinners spent with old friends. I’m for women being used in lead roles in all five positions of the five fold ministry. I’m for not touching God’s anointed, because I’m not the one to judge who the anointed are, and God’s not telling me who is. I’m for the homosexual, the sexually confused and the adulterer who has destroyed theirs and the lives of their family by their sin. I’m for the black man, the brown, the yellow man, the red as well as the white because the Gospel is for all people and is bigger than the cultural walls that divide us.
Today I reject the gospel of hate. The angry self-righteous words of those who scream for conformity over unity, ideology over discourse, and homogenized groups over any diversity that may challenge the norms of what they think they know. Most of all I’m for the one named Jesus. The one who when handed the opportunity to render judgment on a guilty woman caught in a horrible sin, chose not to pick up a stone but instead reached down into the dirt and restored the dignity and hope of this accused and guilty one that the religious were trying so hard to take. Today He is still giving that empowering grace. That’s my Jesus, that’s my God, and that is what I am for.