It is election season, and Colorado is witnessing one of the most hotly contested congressional races in the country. Political attack banter rages 24-7 in every form of media imaginable. What grates on my nerves like nothing else are the comments about "family values", "Christian people" and "tradition". And by implication if you disagree with whatever doctrine is being propagated, you are a godless heathen going straight to you-know-where in a hand basket. The present political climate is so polarized that there is absolutely no middle ground, and thrown most often into the fray is religion.
This sort of contentious Christianity has always deeply bothered me, but it only seems to get worse with every passing day. In recent years, I have chosen not to "own up" to the fact that I actually am a person of faith. I know so many Christians who are rude, judgmental, hateful and hurtful. Essentially, the opposite of what a Christian should be. As is true in life, whoever shouts the loudest is heard and this is as true as I have ever seen it with regards to James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Joel Osteen and their ilk. In fact, their tiresome rhetoric makes me sick.
Fortunately I have had the opportunity to know many wonderful, progressive, activist Christians who are using their faith to spur action and the institution of the Church to effect real change in our pained world. But these people who work so hard to advocate for social justice, peace and the disadvantaged are woefully overshadowed by Fred Phelps and his hateful signs and presence at military funerals, James Dobson and his political posturing, Joel Osteen and his prosperity gospel and Pat Robertson and his mega-empire of Christian programming.
Isn't there a middle ground? I sometimes catch myself preemptively judging this particular breed of Christian, before they can judge me. In a sense, I am doing the exact same thing that irritates me about these "other" Christians.
By either coincidence or providence, I spent my evening watching the thought-provoking documentary "Lord, Save Us From Your Followers." (http://lordsaveusthemovie.com/) There are a number of other films examining religion and sociology (Religulous, Jesus Camp, Saved), but "Lord, Save us from your followers" is the best film I have discovered for genuinely presenting both sides of the equation. Instead of making fun of extremism, this film is a call for dialogue.
There might be a middle path down this road, and dear Lord, I hope so. If not, Christianity will only continue to self-combust, and further alienate everyone else. So much evil has been propagated in the name of faith, and it needs to stop.
There are a number of fantastic books out there, among them:
Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian
Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis
Nadia Bolz-Weber's Salvation on the Small Screen?
Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz
and anything by Anne Lamott
Most churches have a tendency to leave me annoyed, but I have been blessed to discover a unique Church in Denver (House for All) that gives me hope again. This small and emergent church is working for social change in the city, and I am so thankful for its existence.