I Thought I Already Knew The Answers?

It is both terrifying and exhilarating to interact with people from a position outside the walls of institutional Christianity.  When I use the term ‘institutional Christianity’, I mean that community of people who are together based upon a set of beliefs, propositions, norms, and lifestyles that are both valued and shared.  Without meaning to sound  condescending, institutional Christianity is in that sense sort of like a ‘club’.  If you grew up in the church like I did, there are certain agreed upon rules and norms that we can use to make sure we are safe together and belong together.

Let me an offer an example.   I was recently chatting with a thoughtful and gracious young woman who was raised in a Christian home by loving parents.  She related to me that as she matured and began to find her own way in life apart from her parents, her faith in God did not suffer, but the rules of engagement began to come into question.  For example, she is now engaged in a friendly but on-going debate with her father concerning the two (and she believes related) issues of abortion and capitol punishment.

I asked her what her father believed about these issues.  When she told me, I recognized his opinions instantly.  His opinions are the opinions that are shared by virtually every Christian that I know.  Now, there are Christians who do not share these opinions (this young woman is one of them), but the Christians with whom I grew up, with whom I have always hung, understand among ourselves that these are the ‘correct’ views for the follower of Christ, even though Jesus never directly addresses either one of these two issues.

“My dad says ‘no’ to abortion and ‘yes’ to capitol punishment”, she declared, arms raised, palms up, as if to say, ‘what could be any clearer or more obviously right than that?  ‘What do you believe’?, I asked, as I sensed a growing uneasiness inside.      

‘Personally, I don’t understand why it’s alright for any of us, governments or church or anyone, to think we get to decide who lives and who dies,’ her matter-of-factness was  disarming.  ‘That’s what my dad just doesn’t get’, she continued as my uneasiness began to subside.  ‘Why is it ok to say ‘you die’, and ‘you live’?  Who has that right?’ 

She was now hitting on all cylinders.  ‘As for me, I don’t believe in abortion.  I would never have one.  But I don’t think that decision should be anyone’s by mine.’  ‘As for capitol punishment, I get that there are things people do which probably are so bad that death might be justified.  But I don’t see anything in the life of or teachings of Jesus that gives us the go-ahead to say, ‘you die’.’

It then hit me that because I was listening to her as a recovering Christian professional, and therefore a recovering ‘institutional Christian’, I was sort of ‘listening’ for the first time.  And it was both terrifying and exhilarating.  It was terrifying, because I have largely disconnected from institutional norms, and therefore am without the safety of knowing exactly what to believe about everything; exhilarating, because I was actually listening to a person without any need to see if she believed ‘correctly’.

It is a new and refreshing experience to actually ‘hear’ others who are not in your club and realize that they are concerned about and struggling with the same issues you are.  I have a lot to learn.

The Glass Pastor

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Right?! Amazing, terrifying and exhilirating… Can you imagine this without the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. When conversing and listening, I remember the ONE goal of Christ, as Gordon Fee put it, to reconcile God to man… issues don’t matter… people matter. Christ did NOT come to be our conquering, political king… He came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. It is so freeing in conversation to be less wrapped up in the issue, and, instead, to be ignited by God’s love for the person I am conversing with. Brad, I am literally in a new realm of thinking… my imagination for the Greatness of God and the Love of Christy has me more “scandalous” than ever… In our search for a new “church”, I am so thankful for the Church, the Body, I am a part of the other hours of the week. I am excited for this season of your life as well. Be released as the Kingdom of God is unleashed on this planet. As Wimber stated, “Be naturally in the supernatural!” In His unfailing love, Mrs. Fuller

  2. Sorry, meant the love of CHRIST, not christy…

  3. Hi, Brad!! Very interesting. This blog brings up some interesting points.
    Being a PK as you know, I grew up with so many people expecting me to believe and act a “certain” way. Including my parents. When growing up in the church its easy to let others instill there beliefs in you. Without even knowing it we take on their ideas and run with them. The glasses we wear are not our own.

    About 10 years ago I went through a crisis that scared the life out of me. I began to have panic attacks and fear. This was mostly due to a realization I was having. Where did my personal Christian beliefs come from? My parents? The institutionalized church? It scared me because at the very base of all this I had to ask myself if the only reason I believed in Jesus is because I was told to. This happens on so many Christian issues though. We learn to not think for ourselves, thus becoming lazy. I am guilty of it.

    I must confess though that I am so at the beginning of this journey. And frankly it scares me alittle. I never want to go off the deep end spiritually. I want to be oh so careful. I have so much weeding through to do concerning my beliefs before Christ. Much of what I have been originally taught I will most likely agree with but somethings I am realizing I will go against the grain. Not to be individualistic but because I choose to let Christ show me his true colors. Even if its not the “popular” institutionalized church view.

    I have always felt like I could tell you exactly how I felt about a situation and never felt judged. Even if I didn’t agree with you completely. 🙂

    • Thank you Liane. you really belong to God! I pray that you will find out that you do not have to be ‘oh so careful’. Rather, you can just be exactly who you are!

  4. The most assumed stance that the church takes is the belief that all Christians are Republicans or at least should be. The kingdom is the only thing that matters. The rest just seperates.

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