Following the World

One of the million things I wrestle with is a comment I regularly hear from platformed evangelical leaders that is some version of “we’re not following what’s popular, we’re not going to follow the world.” Usually this is in reference to a matter they consider orthodoxy – believing the right thing – or orthopraxy – doing it the right way. It can come up in platform comments about accepting LGBTQ+ followers of Jesus as legit. Or it can even still come up in platform comments about women in ministry. It can come up in platform comments about getting the Covid vaccine or following the mask mandate. Or it can come up in platform comments about Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a lens through which we can understand what has happened and is happening to Black people in America.

I wrestle with platform comments like these in evangelical spaces because Sunday morning is still the most segregated hour of week and White evangelicals (as a whole, not necessarily as individuals) continue to imitate racists more than we do Jesus in the treatment of People of Color. We talk about the inclusion of Black and Brown bodies around our tables of power as if we’ve actually changed our way of thinking and living. Doubtless you will quote, “don’t despise the day of small beginnings…” which feels good in the mouth of the dominant culture but still tastes bitter in the mouths of people who have waited for hundreds of years to be treated as fully human by those with power.

The judgment on how we’re doing in this regard can’t be found in the opinions of the People of Color we include at the table, it must also be found in the collective heart of those still marginalized.

As long as evangelical platformed leaders continue to make comments about CRT that are misleading, factually incorrect and obvious straw men, we sound more like politicians from the Right than we do imitators of Jesus.

I’ve had more than one conversation with an LGBTQ+ Christian friend who is ready to walk away from the Church once and for all because Christians with whom they are in relationship but don’t feel safe to be “out” with, say ugly things about LGBTQ+ people that sound a lot more like hate than love, more like the dominant hetero World than they do Jesus.

I’ve heard several platform speakers zero in on the LGBTQ+ “issue” as the very thing they won’t conform to the World about, even while their language and attitude are exclusionary in a way that Jesus never is but the World, in my experience, has often been. It’s entirely mythological and a story that hetero-normative Christians tell each other that the World leans towards LGBTQ+ people but none of my LGBTQ+ Christian friends feel that way. My friend who died of AIDS didn’t feel that way. My celibate gay friend definitely does not feel like the whole World is for him. We need to grow up and stop talking and acting like we’re the oppressed on this one and stop saying from the platform that excluding LGBTQ+ is more like Jesus than it is the World.

I struggle with this because of the rhetoric and silence from white, evangelical platforms about American politics.

The prophets of Israel were not silent about politics. It’s not God who asks us to keep our mouths shut and not offend anyone. God isn’t afraid of losing numbers. That’s the World.

I struggle because the white, evangelical church that I’m experiencing often speaks lies from the platform about Covid, about socialism, about democrats, about republicans, about America’s place in the world – and we sound a whole lot more like the World than we do Jesus and the Bible.

I’m coming to believe that what we really mean when we are on the platform and say that we won’t imitate the World or follow the World, what we really mean is that we will only follow that which reflects back to us our own image of ourselves. And in finding our own image reflected back to us, we find certainty that we are right and God is on our side.

What I’m trying to get at is that when we kept slaves and kept them from the Gospel, we were still singing, “though none go with me, still I will follow.” Only we weren’t following Jesus, we were following the World. When I preached against women being in church leadership, I promise you, I argued that “me and my house” would serve the Lord and not a woman elder. We wouldn’t follow the way of the World. What I’m getting at is that often, in my lifetime, the pursuit of God has somehow put the Church absolutely in league with the Powers and Principalities of her day, much more like the World, and much less like Jesus.

These are the kinds of things I think we need to get worked out before we launch a hundred new campuses because my fear is that in the end we will hear, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are!”

This has been your Wednesday downer, brought to you by the letters “M” and “E” and the number “0.” See you tomorrow boys and girls.

Published by APastor'sStory

Trying to squeeze this life for all the juice I can get out of it.

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