Have you ever wondered why some Christian churches make it so hard to be accepted? I have and I am still very confused by it. Yes, there is history and tradition, both in terms of culture and the interpretation of theology, but I still wonder why it is so hard for the culture to change. I also, in a perverse way, understand the need for uniformity and commonality. It gives people confidence in their faith to know that everyone is supposed to be living to the same standard. Despite this, it still seems weird that the church seems to have it so backwards, even if what they believe is true. Even if you believe that everyone should live the way a conservative Christian describes, the whole concept is based on the idea that it cannot be done without the indwelling of the Spirit. And if that is true, then almost by definition sinners need to be in the church as their worst selves in order to tap in to the power that will lead them to change.
Even that sentence is difficult to write because of all the inherent flaws in the logic. If we believe that God is omnipresent, then they are everywhere, so you don’t need to align yourself with a particular church to find them. If we believe that God hears the prayer of the sinner, then that prayer can happen anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in the church. If we believe that God is present where any two are gathered together in their name, then a church becomes any structure where those two people come together. I want to be in a church that realizes that it can be important, but does not demand that it be necessary. I want to be in a church that realizes the Spirit of the Lord brings liberty, but does not try to redefine what liberty is. I want to be in a church that calls people to do and be better, but does not see shame as the primary instrument of that change.
I don’t know if my church as a whole will ever be that way. History and tradition are powerful things to overcome. But if faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, then I have faith that Christianity can be different. The indisputable truth for everything is that it changes. One of my doctoral professors used to say that if the early church saw our Christianity now, they would be appalled, and if we saw Christianity 2,000 years from now, we would be appalled. My hope is that Christianity now overcomes its myopia and transforms itself into something that is more daring, more hopeful, more believing, more trusting, and more loving. I want to do my best to be an agent of that change and be here when it happens.
Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at AdventHealth University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.
Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found by clicking here.
Image Credit: Erika Giraud on Unsplash.
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