Posted by: dacalu | 17 February 2010

Christian flavored candy

I had an opportunity to speak out this week. A rather intolerant Christian preacher was on the mall at the University and I thought it would be worth being present. On the one hand, he was speaking to the gathered students. He told them that women should find good masterly husbands and obey them. He told them that God hates sodomites. He told them that anyone who is not Christian (and apparently a many people that think they are) is going to Hell. On the other hand were the students from the Atheist group on campus arguing that all religion is bigoted nonsense. Sigh.

So my primary purpose was to tell people that they had another option, a middle way as Anglicans have called it for years, reasonable, reasoning, and reasoned Christianity. And I feel fortunate that that seemed to come out of my mouth when I stood to speak. God provides.

It gave me reason to think. I wondered what it was about the preacher that bothered me – why was it that I felt the attending students needed to hear something different? Clearly he was strong in his beliefs. I respect that. He was knowledgeable about the Bible (in text if not in message). Why does he bother me?

I thought about if for a while and decided it was this:

He was handing out candy.

Not physical candy, but spiritual candy. It was pretty. It was wrapped up neatly. It has the flavor of Christianity – love of God, piety, bible, worship, holiness – but it’s just sugar. It doesn’t require the hard work of chewing, but tastes sweet and goes down easy.

It has been my experience that this type of Christianity – including Biblical literalism, exclusivity of salvation, condemnation of the other – doesn’t provide long term sustenance. When true difficulties arise – deep suffering, alienation, profound change – it becomes brittle and unsatisfying. No wonder so many people have trouble with suffering in the world. They have not been fed.

The solid food of adult Christianity takes effort. It takes struggling with the text of the Bible that says things we don’t want to hear. Things that take lifetimes to learn and appreciate. This book of wisdom stands the test of millennia; don’t tell me it’s not subtle and complex. In order to speak to all of us, it must speak to each of us personally and intimately. Reading it cannot be simple.

The meat of Christianity means loving one another, not simply following a set of rules. There are some pretty serious principles and practices involved. One of my favorites is this: Thou shalt not kill. On the surface, it is simple, and I’m a pacifist, so I take it fairly literally: Don’t kill people. Even I recognize the complexity of that statement. What about police trying to bring down a shooter on a tower? What about states that torture and kill their own citizens for the benefit of the elite? What about abortion and euthanasia? I don’t really think any of those justify killing someone – and yet. And yet, I recognize how another Christians – in good faith, prayerfully, and acting in love – might make a different choice. It does not stop me from preaching against killing, but it keeps me humble.

Another example: divorce. I’m not a fan. Jesus was not a fan. He’s pretty clear on that one. And yet. And yet, I have known people who’s faith, sanity, even their lives were saved by divorce – families for whom it was really the best option. I have humility in this as well.

Christianity (and Judaism) involves wrestling with God. It takes giving up things you thought you knew (like Peter and the unclean foods). It takes accepting God wherever you find the Spirit at work (Saul, Cornelius, the Ethiopian Eunuch, and on and on).

Christianity must be chewed and digested.

I don’t like the televangelists and the mall preachers because they give people Christian flavored candy. It looks like the real thing. It tastes better and goes down easier. And it comes in a neat little package. And we, like children, are happy to eat it in place of our dinners. We complain when we don’t get enough of it, because just like candy it can be addictive. It makes you feel good immediately, but fails to satisfy in any long term way. It seldom strengthens us to face the challenges of creation.

I hope you will join me in sharing the true food of Christ:
The water which will ensure you will never be thirsty again
Learning to love God as though you met for the first time – every day
Learning to love one another by being open to the Spirit
wherever and however he/she/it appears.
This is the bread of life.

Please join me in giving up candy for lent.

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