My friend, Bishop Leland Somers sent me the following email that I wish I had written myself. In his typical fashion, he not only says it like it is, but he expresses the anger and frustration so many of us feel regarding the moribund, pathetic, bureaucratic, and legalistic state of most of the institutional Church, and the frequently hateful manifestations of that tragic state, causing untold harm to others by the needless inculcation of guilt, condemnation, and exclusion and, thereby, having Christians worthy of the name tainted with the same stench of the false gospel most of the institutional Church erroneously and loudly proclaims as representing "Christianity."
To be a Christian is to be an agent of God's grace in the world! "Christianity" is about grace and love! And the only Gospel to be found in Christianity is the Gospel of Grace, Faith, Love, Peace, Reconciliation, and Inclusiveness!
That's why Jesus tells all those who would be His disciples that we are not to judge anyone; we are not to condemn anyone!
Anyone who discriminates through word and/or deed, or who preaches the false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion is none of His! That person, like most of the institutional Church, has aligned him/herself with reactionary and oppressive forces that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity! Indeed, those reactionary and oppressive forces are diametrically opposed to Christianity!
Whenever one does evil, he/she almost always appeals to virtue! So, wolves in sheep's clothing who falsely call themselves "Christians," are not only deluding others, and perhaps even deluding themselves, but are contravening the very Commandments Jesus gave to all who would be His disciples: To love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves!
"Envy not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways." (Proverbs 3:31)
Hey Jerry -
Here's a good one from "Dispatches from The Culture Wars".
This guy is not the first one to notice that industry is doing a far better job on embracing an ethic of inclusion than the church is doing. There are those who predict that the one of the reasons that the Christian Church is in steep decline is that it is not willing to throw off the blinders to injustice that it has worn for
hundreds if not more than a thousand years. I tend to agree. We need to look to Europe for the future of the Christian Church. In Europe, and by that I include the Scandinavian countries and the United Kingdom and Ireland. (Ireland is a special case where we see the internecine tribalistic Christian blood letting still seething just below the surface.) What we see in Europe is an irrelevant church manifested as what it really is; an institution more concerned about its survival as an institution than in the Gospel of God's Kingdom made manifest in the person, life, ministry death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the same church in this country and I believe that the fundamentalistic evangelistic upheavals are little more than the last gasping for last breath of a religion that has deliberately made itself irrelevant to human strivings, human suffering, and human needs.
When we look to Jesus, particularly as portrayed in the synoptic Gospels, we find a man who is totally committed to the well being of people where they are. That is in their daily lives of struggle against the powers and principalities of this world (not flying demons and dragons of medieval mythologies) but the powers that exploit, demean, diminish, devalue and destroy human life and dignity as the image of God. The Christian Church most particularly since it was subsumed as part and parcel of the Roman Empire, a tragedy from which is has never recovered - not even in the Reformation of the 16th century - which actually cemented the church to earthly rulers and kingdoms - has consistently betrayed the radical nature of the Kingdom of God which was Jesus' Good News. It has instead substituted a kingdom far far away in another time and place - and called it the Kingdom of Heaven in mockery of Jesus own teaching that the Kingdom of Heaven (God) is right here right now but we have to live into it by embracing the values that Jesus showed us in his life. It happens when we live out the values of radical justice and radical love (you can't have one without the other - they are inseparable) here on this earth.
This is the Good News. The Kingdom of God is at hand. What does that mean? It is at the tip of your finger. It is at the end of your arm. It is where your hands do the work of God. That work is the work of Justice. The justice of which Amos and all the Hebrew prophets speak. This is not a mystery hidden in a conundrum. It is plain for all to see. But they will see it only if they choose to see it.
The Gospel of Thomas puts it this way: " Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the (Father's) kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you."
It is no wonder that Jesus was in such despair on the cross. He had spent his whole ministry trying to get people to actually follow him and live the life he lived. Yet right up to the end when they all ran - except for the women, the really strong disciples - he hoped that they would 'get it'. "My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?" He was so alone and abandoned that he no longer experienced the connection to God that had sustained his ministry and his vision.
Did Jesus at that moment see that the movement he spent his life to nurture would in a few hundred years utterly betray him to the very Empire which executed him as a traitor and rebel? Did he see that the discussion that he had with James and John about sitting in judgment was one where he made his point but lost to the desire for power and place of honor at the table of the Emperor? Did he see that ultimately only a very few would stand up to the Powers and Principalities in his name and for his Father's Kingdom? Did he see that radical justice and unconditional love were not what people really wanted? Did he see that what they really wanted was fame, power and money? Did he see that his church was to be betrayed over and over and over again and again through the centuries and millennia to come?
Jesus wept. The church betrayed him.
Has the torch of radical justice and love and acceptance passed out of the church and into secular societies? Is there any need for the church? Is it just another source of burden for those of us who struggle for the dignity of the children of God?