Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Caricature of Conservative Evangelical Christians

Have you ever been to a fair or amusement park and seen those folks who draw caricatures? The finished product is something that loosely resembles the individual but is wildly exaggerated to create effect. That often happens when we attempt to describe others with whom we disagree. I discovered this sort of thing on the web page of a church here in the Louisville, KY area. I am familiar with this congregation only through reputation. It would be fair to say that the pastor and this church are "moderate" compared to some and "liberal" in comparison to most evangelicals (including me).

I listened to the first 30 minutes of what I assume is a recent sermon or address meant to set the tone and vision for their church. The pastor is a very good communicator and is leading his congregation to live out the mantra, "God's Transforming Love."

I don't have time to address our differences in theology and understanding of the gospel, nor do I really care to. Let me just say, the brokenness of our world that manifests itself in all sorts of ills and pain is the result of human sin. We can try all sorts of social and political mechanisms and they will offer only temporary relief at best. The gospel of Jesus Christ, that provides for salvation and transformation for all who repent of their sin and embrace the atonement of the cross, is the only lasting cure.

However, I was struck by the pastor's depiction of conservative evangelical Christians. He listed several hot-button issues (highlighting the wacky conservative positions) that seemed to invigorate the audience as they displayed hearty approval of his descriptions. He painted "big 'C' Christians" as "militant" and "angry." In his mind this is often demonstrated in our zeal to fulfill the Great Commission. He also mentioned that conservatives, through our desire to reach the lost, establish an "us verses them" mentality.

This pastor was painting a caricature and accentuating the points of disagreement between himself and conservative evangelicals to confirm that he wants no part of that sort of ministry. In fact, by the time he was finished he had created an "us verses them" scenario. I suppose he is entitled to his strategy. But why is it important to trot out the cartoon conservative as a prop in order to describe what you desire to accomplish in your ministry? This church has a substantial following. Why not simply and clearly state what you believe ministry is all about, without bashing those with whom you disagree and mocking their positions for effect? While I clearly don't agree with this pastor and I think he has distorted many of our views, there is something to be gained from his perception.

Here is what I take away for this: I want my life and ministry to demonstrate passion for Christ and the gospel. I want to be characterized by humility, grace, mercy and love. I also never want to compromise the authority of Scripture, the exclusivity and necessity of the atonement and the demands of the Great Commission.

I want to look radically different from his caricature of conservative evangelical Christianity. I also want to be boldly faithful to Christ and the gospel. If there is going to be an offense, I don't want it to be my arrogant attitude, but rather the absolute truth of God's holiness and our accountability to Him. In other words, I want to be like Christ.

HT: Dave Theobald (he suggested I post these thoughts I had shared with him)

No comments: