Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hypocrisy, Bigotry, Rejection and Other Popular Christian Characteristics

"I'll get you my pretty; and your little dog too!" These were the infamous words of the Wicked Witch of the West to Dorothy Gale as she sought to find a way out of the land of Oz. Some people think this is the way God is; and not without reason. Their belief is perpetuated by perhaps well-meaning but very self deceived so-called Christians. Basically, they believe that God is out to get you and me. It's as though He is staked out; watching for you to make some mistake; and when it happens, He siezes the opportunity and hits you over the head with His hammer! Then returning to His position, He is poised awaiting another slip-up.

This is not the God I know. It's some other god over in the next county. Evangelist Pat Robertson, responding to the voters of Dover, Pennsylvania recently, who voted out all eight pro-creationist school board members, who wanted their schools to promote the teaching of "intelligent design" (the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power) as an alternative to the theory of evolution, said, "I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city."

This, of course, is completely silly, as is almost everything Mr. Robertson says. He in no way represents the God that I know - the God of compassion and forgiveness - the God of grace. The God I know loves with an everlasting love and His tolerance and patience with us is unfathomable - which explains why Mr. Robertson can still breathe. There are many other false teachers out there whose unfortunate influence through television has reached the masses. Many of these people have been subjugated by their legalistic views of Christian doctrine. The good news of God's totally free gift of unconditional love is all but completely lost. The lessons given to us by Jesus about forgiveness and tolerance are waived in favor of exclusion and condemnation for those that do not meet the acceptance standard of the TV evangelists. The woman caught in the very act of adultery (John 8:4) would have been stoned by this standard. The wayward prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32 would not have been welcomed home. Like the older son, they would have rejected him and sent him away if they had their way.

The homosexual community experiences this hate filled message of rejection posing as righteous indignation nearly everyday. This lie makes people believe they are actually doing God's will by excluding gay people and in general making their lives as miserable as possible by supporting anti-gay marriage initiatives, legalized discrimination against gay people and church policies that shun gays and the people who say anything positive about them. This is nothing less than homophobia gone rampant dressed up and called righteousness. They do this saying that they don't want to be seen supporting such a perverted lifestyle.

The church should be leading the way in promoting acceptance and understanding, regardless of whether or not they think homosexuality is a sin. But instead they are at the core of the hostility against homosexual men and women - people for whom Christ died. After all, they are just people, many of whom are dying without the Savior, because the people of His church will not come and preach the true gospel of grace. They have forgotten that they are sinners saved by grace too. The grace message is about acceptance in spite of sin - it's not about rejection because of it. The church continues to rattle on and on about the sin of homosexuality as though it is the primary reason for Jesus' mission. Truth is, Jesus did not even mention it in a society that was cultivated by the Greco-Roman world innundated with homosexual relationships. If it was so important, why did our Lord not say even one word. It is because Jesus was not about condemnation and rejection - He was not even about correction. He was about love, forgiveness and acceptance of those ex-communicated by men. He reached out to the down and out to those who were alienated and disenfranchised. This does not characterize the modern church. They have departed from the God whose love was so great, "that He gave His only begotten Son." (John 3:16) They have forgotten that God demonstrated "His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

For Paul, there may have been "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1) But, in the church of the 21st century, there is plenty of condemnation to go around for homosexuals and just about anyone else who would speak out against the evangelical fundamentalist Christian point of view. Thank God, their rants and raves do not represent those of our Father in heaven, who sent His Son into the world, not to condemn it but to save it. (John 3:17)

Rev. Bob Ellis