Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Of Street Preachers and Bad Religion

It must be springtime again, because a trio of sex-crazed religious fundamentalists has descended upon our campus again hurling hateful invective at us (three, including the former Georgetown student working the crowd). It’s generally the people who cannot cope with the challenges of their own sexuality who feel the need to denounce others for the wanton acts of carnality they may or may not be committing.

The older preacher has been showing up for the past several years sprouting fresh slurs against Greeks, fornicators, homosexuals, drunkards, pagans, liberals, and everyone in between for engaging in all manner of evils. These diatribes always seem to be a novel attraction to a number of students, but I must insist that the "gospel" these folks vomit out is not new, and it is not good news. Their sermons form an ugly caricature of Christianity, presenting their God as nothing but a small-minded accountant, doling out material blessings in exchange for moral behavior, and smiting his rebellious creations with sickness and destruction if they misstep.

St. Paul would beg to differ: he declares that while we were all separated from God and spiritually dead because of our mixed motives, sinful behavior, selfish living, and outright rebellion, Christ died for us. He offered himself for our redemption and in his resurrection, he made it possible that God might raise us from spiritual death now and physical death at the last day. The Christian Church is the Body of the Risen Christ—what Paul called the mystery of Christ in us. Christians are ordained as priests in God's kingdom by virtue of their baptism and equipped with the power of the Spirit to absorb the sins of men and women around them, forgiving and loving people deeply and authentically: God “has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). This is the ministry of Jesus Christ in our midst.

The street preachers are not qualified to speak to us, because they do not love us. If they cared about our own experiences and perspectives and wished to commune with us by listening to us, then they might speak. But they will not, and so cannot. They flatter themselves in supposing that they can call us to repentance.

The Spirit, however, always calls us to convert to the love of Jesus Christ, the true religion of the Church. Convert with me. Let us bear an authentic witness to God’s love, standing against legalism, bigotry, and a culture of ungrace. We must dare to love creatively those folks who are not like us, who do not agree with us, and who fit nowhere into our neat social circles. If we would be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives we must dedicate ourselves to loving recklessly those we feel most justified in despising.

So I will repent, and deny a religion that seeks to bind folks up and choke them with the Word, instead of setting them free by it. I will say no to a religion that places the written rule above forgiveness and mercy. I will repent of the attitudes I hold toward people who irritate me. I will stop devaluing people. I will stop judging people according to my own standards. I will walk in grace and compassion. I will be a Christian.

Will you repent with me?

If the preacher men return, bear the witness of Jesus Christ the Compassionate One: refuse to curse, refuse to argue; these men aren’t listening to rebuttals, but wish only to anger us. Turn your back on quick judgments, and cold, calculating religion, and refuse to encourage their message. Walk away.

Christ have mercy.

1 comment:

Ben Finger said...

What of Jonah?