Dear God, please let me never live beside a Christian who takes the command to love his neighbour as a moral absolute, divorced from any personal experience of heartbreak and being swept up by a grand irresistible and peaceable love. Not that I wouldn’t appreciate the casseroles, at least to begin with; and I could overlook the tracts under my door because of the fruit pies; but eventually the conversations laced with agenda would grow weary and then rivalrous, and the pies would stop, the tracts multiply, until one day a knock would come and I would be taken away by something like the Guardians of Faith and Freedom—my neighbour watching through Venetian blinds.
Please excuse me. You see I just read a Gallop poll that suggests the more devout and pious one is, the more one attends church, the more one is likely to favour war. "In general, the more frequently an American attends church, the less likely he or she is to say the (Iraq) war was a mistake.”
So how does this work exactly? A friend sent me Gary Kohl’s recent article, What kind of Christianity is this? It may shed some light on this.
But before I head for the narthex, here’s something: A survey taken by Baylor, published a few months ago in Christianity Today, suggests that frequent bible reading will nudge one toward a more liberal world view. There are a bunch of caveats in the study but I found this possibility refreshing. And of course it makes sense, especially if, as is my position, that the bible must be read through the lens of the gospels. It was however disappointing to scan the 95 comments. Most disagreed with the conclusion; in some cases there was hostility.
I suspect we’re still some distance from Kohl’s contention that,
Jesus of the Gospels was an outspoken, nonviolent leftist who tried to reform his authoritarian conservative, dogmatic church but also refused to shut up with his call for justice for the down-trodden – even when his superiors threatened him with serious consequences if he didn’t.
But let me end with this: It’s lexicon we’re stuck with; but how weary liberal/conservative, right/left. Don’t we—on either side—drag our feet in our attempts at understanding? Don’t we scapegoat the scapegoaters?
We use our doctrine, our concept of God to shield us from undergoing necessary heartbreak, the very thing that could lead us into mercy and love and conversations without agenda, except for a desire to understand.