I peruse the blogs over in the religious section occasionally. I find it entertaining and in rare instances somewhat enlightening. This evening there was certainly a trend in the blogging, and it basically boils down to this: Christianity shouldn’t change so that it might become more socially relevant or attractive to the liberal masses. This blog and this blog are two great examples of the alleged problem of trying to modernize religion or make it relevant for the 21st century. Ultimately, so the argument goes, you’re fundamentally changing what the religion is at its core if you allow things like accepting homosexuals or evolution or cosmology. You’re diminishing biblical authority and that, in effect, is blasphemy.
I find this idea very interesting and perplexing, because ultimately it seems to value process over substance. This school of thought seems to assert, most likely unknowingly, that the most important part of Christianity is the ritual involved. More specifically, that acceptance of biblical authority is an all-or-nothing measure of how “real” a Christian one is.
But let’s perform a thought experiment. Let’s imagine a man, and let’s call him John. John identifies as a Christian. John loves God and accepts Christ as his personal lord and savior. And John worships God every Sunday at church. John isn’t perfect–nobody is–but he leads a “good” life: he gives to charity, volunteers to help his fellow man in his free time, he’s even gone with members of his his church to help build more churches in third world countries. John waited until he was married to have sex, and was married to the same woman his entire life. But John also helped to integrate gays into his church and community, and even supported gay marriage. Now let’s suppose that after a long life, John dies and he stands before God. Imagine the following conversation:
God: “John, you accepted me in your heart, you worshiped me faithfully, and you did my work on earth. But I must condemn you because of your support of homosexuals. Why did you do that, John?”
John: “Did Jesus not teach us to love thy neighbor? Well, Bob and Rick were my neighbors, and therefore I loved them like the rest of my fellow man.”
God: “But they were committing blasphemy against the church.”
John: “It is not my right to judge, but yours.”
God: “What about all of that stuff I put in the bible about ‘men not laying with men as they would with women’? They offend the bible and me!”
John: “When Jesus gave the sermon on the mount, did he not teach us to turn the other cheek? To love even our enemies?”
The dialogue could go on. And you could replace the homosexuals with evolution, the big bang theory, abortion, or anything else expressly forbidden by the bible. Imagine you are God. What would you say to John’s retorts?
One moment the bible is full of wrath and vengeance and the blood of the lamb, and the next moment it’s full of peace and love and not throwing stones. Which parts do you think God would have you embrace? Do you think that owning slaves and stoning people who work on Sunday are as equally important as loving thy neighbor and turning the other cheek? Aren’t those conflicting principles, though?
If people are going to make anything all or nothing in Christianity, let it be the parts about loving your fellow man, turning the other cheek, the tale of the good Samaritan, letting he who is without sin cast the first stone. If you spend your time denigrating, judging, and oppressing certain groups of people, I’d say you’ve missed the most important parts of the bible.