Useful provocation

The Agnostic Pentecostal” is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs, because Dave, the blog’s author, insists on asking hard questions and providing brutally, sometimes painfully, honest answers.

One of his recent posts hits home hard for me because I find myself square in the middle of it … I don’t have to look any farther than the first and second paragraphs, in which he asks, “Who’s really a ‘true’ Christian?” And follows the question up with an all-too-familiar scenario:

It seems every time someone points out a flaw about Christianity, perhaps calling out the questionable behavior of a Christian leader or even something more subtle, other Christians use the defense, “That’s right! But they’re not a true Christian.” Some examples:

When non-Christians speak of the failings of Ted Haggard or Eddie Long as proof that Christianity is worthless, liberal-progressive Christians like to point out how they’re not like that, or even use it as an example of how their form of faith is better. How that (conservative, Charismatic, megachurch) stream of Christianity is not the real Christianity. How real Christianity is about social justice and sound reasoning and such.

And he goes on to provide example after example of Christians entangling themselves – or more accurately, ourselves – painfully and obviously in a one No True Scotsman after another. Instead, he tells us – or better, me – to shut up. And he’s right. Or at least I think he is.

I talk too much. I think too much. And as a result, I don’t act enough. Sometimes I get preoccupied with philosophy, or theology, or science – all good things. Other times I get into sometimes friendly sometimes not so friendly talks with atheists about God’s existence and whether or not God’s existence matters to us homo sapiens habiting Earth – which in my view, is a good thing. And other times, I busy myself with convincing others that this criminal televangelist that steals from the poor or that child-molesting youth pastor isn’t what Christianity is all about.

Good things or not, fact is, it’s all talk. And if Dave’s right … then maybe all that talk’s not as valuable as I want it to be. Here’s his take on Jesus and the Great Commandment:

And Jesus himself hit on it with the advice that he said sums up all the religious rules. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders might say that something like it is too vague, too nonspecific, and not clear enough for the average person to put into real practice. It was Jesus’ primary directive: “Love God. Love others. That’s it.” (Matthew 22:36)

Have you ever asked yourself, “What if … that actually is it? What if Jesus actually meant those words, and those are the only two things that ultimately matter?”

I can’t answer those questions for you, and I won’t try.

But in this moment, I know that’s true for me and my journey following Jesus. And as a result, I’m going to make a conscious effort to not talk so much about things that don’t further Jesus’ primary directive in my life or the lives of others. So the next time Pat Robertson blames an earthquake on the gays or secret pacts with the devil, etc., etc., I will remain silent about those goings on.

But I won’t do nothing, for that would be to err in the opposite direction. Instead, I seek out a way for my actions to speak more loudly than my words or the words of others.

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5 thoughts on “Useful provocation

  1. Love God. Love others. That’s it.

    Yeah, I think that’s pretty much the recipe. Some Christians hate gays, hate Muslims, hate liberals, hate illegal immigrants, hate Barack Obama (who according to some Christians is a gay muslim liberal illegal immigrant), there’s a whole lot of hate brewing in some hearts that consider themselves “true Christians”.

    So, um, “Love Others”, right? It’s really easy. I try to do it as much as I possibly can.

    I’m an atheist, yet I truly love the meaning that Jesus has for those who follow his true message. In fact, I might try to follow his message closer if it weren’t for those who spew hate and claim Team Jesus. I’m not a person of faith but I truly admire the core message of Jesus Christ, and even though I’m not doing it to score points or get myself into “heaven”, I think he sets an awesome example for how one should live their life, theist or not.

    For me, “Love God. Love others. That’s it” doesn’t work the same way it does for a Christian. I try as hard as I can to love others, and I am constantly spellbound with the beauty of the world that, in some sense, is God. The difference between me and faith is that I can’t commit to loving something I haven’t personally and directly gotten to know on my own beyond hearsay, either written or spoken.

    But as for being a “True Christian”, I think you as the author here are pretty much as true as it gets. You explore your faith logically and in good spirit, you share it here for those you care about, and you aren’t afraid to tackle hard questions that most in your arena would hide from. With that, you love God and your nature and from where I sit, you appear to do so without pause. As for loving others, you respect and encourage opinions which may conflict with your own, as exhibited elsewhere in fantastic form.

    Love God, love others, check and check, Ben. I’m here because I like intelligent discussions about religion, even though I’m not a person of faith. I’m the tax collector / prostitute to your smart, engaging discussions of the Christian faith. You’re pretty much representative of the things I loved about Christianity when I was one. By my vote, from an outside point of view, the world would be a better place if you were the model for “true Christian”. I think you should be really proud of that, man.

  2. I understand what you’re saying. But silence is not necessarily a good thing. I have learned from you this past year, BR, even while I disagreed with you. Commentary on issues you care about is worthwhile.

    1. I agree with you, and I think it’s a delicate balance. What Dave seems to be reacting against, and where I’m echoing him in some way, is the yelling and shouting “Well HE’s not a ‘TRUE CHRISTIAN,’ and I AM!!!”

      I think it’s important to voice one’s own opinion … but not in a self-righteous way. And sometimes, at least, actions speak louder.

  3. For me, I think it’s important to at least say that Pat Robertson or whoever claims to represent me does not. Being an ex-Christian atheist I see versions of Christianity that I prefer to others so even I will fall into the “he’s not a true Christian” trap sometimes.

    Thanks for turning me on to Dave’s blog. Good stuff there.

    I like the following quote that he has on his about page:

    “I am not prepared to hand over to any other person, though wise and learned, or to any institution however ancient or sure of its position, my inalienable right to search for ever-growing and ever-expanding truth.” – Dr. Raynor C. Johnson

    I posted it as my status on Facebook and several people liked it. Then one person who only befriended me to “witness” to me responded with:

    “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. John 14:6–Either He’s telling the TRUTH, or He’s the most misguided liar that ever lived!!”

    This guy is 100% certain that his take on Christianity is the correct one.

    Sigh.

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