Monday, May 23, 2011

Weird Christians

Freaks and Geeks
Remember high school? And the lunch table? And that person you were loosely associated with because you sat at the same table? When he did that really weird thing publicly and you had to say something terrible and mocking about him just as publicly—only to make sure no one thought you were really friends? Remember that?

It’s okay if you don’t remember silly high school misunderstandings—adulthood allows just as many opportunities. Especially if you’re a Christian and some other person who calls himself a Christian does something really weird. You probably think, Come on, dude!  We’re weird enough already!

Last summer Anne Rice famously quit Christianity via Facebook:

For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian.  I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

More recently, when Rob Bell’s book Love Wins came out, battle lines among Christians were clearly drawn. Even before the book was released, John Piper famously Tweeted, “Farewell Rob Bell”. The Christian Blogosphere exploded with infighting.  (Of which this will not be an example. I’ll stop here.)

Christian T-shirt Featured on Jesus Needs New PR
Matthew Paul Turner’s entire shtick (Jesus Needs New PR) is built on the wacky, misguided decisions Christians make as they attempt to engage culture. As if Christianity wasn’t confusing and strange enough, Christians everywhere keep presenting and representing it poorly.

In some cases, very poorly. {Enter Family Radio and the Rapture of May 21, 2011.}

As May 21 neared and Harold Camping and his followers warned a wide audience of the impending rapture, my Twitter feed was a flood of snarky quips, mostly from Christians. Mass media widened Camping’s audience by grabbing the story and letting “experts” weigh in. The masses chimed in via Facebook and Twitter. I engaged too, probably out of that same high school-style knee-jerk reaction. Oh, me? Yes, I’m a Christian but not the Harold Camping kind.

Camping got it wrong. He ignored parts of scripture that didn’t support his argument, constructed a timeline, and convinced a bunch of people to commit fully to his cause. Still, that doesn’t cast him out of the flock.

On Sunday night I read this thoughtful, compassionate response from Timothy Dalrymple. It’s an open letter to Camping and his followers. It’s biblical, gracious and not snarky in the least. (From a secular point of view, however, it’s still probably very weird.)

Christianity is weird. If Jesus had to choose a high school lunch table, he would absolutely join the most rejected folks. In his time on earth he ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, healed the lepers and others who were deemed unclean, and turned social norms upside-down.

That is exactly why Christianity can’t be summed up in a tweet or a status update or a blog post or article.

Talk to people in person, engage texts you don’t agree with whole-heartedly, think for yourself, seek primary sources. Pray. If you’re not a Christian, attend a bible study. If you are a Christian, but you’re only friends with other Christians, get out more! Extend grace. Grow. Sometimes, you'll even have to be the weird kid at the lunch table.

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.    Matthew 22:37

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