Monday, July 28, 2008

"If These Kids Die..."

I've been living in Miami the last six weeks working with a Church here. I've been able to do lots of things, but I've really been able to mentor three guys closely: Danny, Patrick, and Josh. All three of them decided to follow Jesus this summer and get baptized. It's been an awesome experience to see them so hungry to follow God and live for Jesus in the environment they live in.

Today we went to MacDonald's together to get some dinner. We were studying the Bible, and Danny wanted to know if kids go to Heaven. I explained to him how there's a point when kids get old enough that they really know right from wrong and are held accountable. Kids do wrong things, but they just copy what they see others do. It's when they get old enough to be independent, they can actually distinguish right from wrong, feel guilty, and be responsible for their choices.

There were some little kids playing in the PlayPlace right next to us. So, in order to illustrate my point, I pointed behind my shoulder and said loudly that for example, "If these kids die, they're going to Heaven." But right as I said this, their mother happened to walk right by me and looked at me with a face of sheer horror. The funny thing is, I think the only part she heard was "If these kids die" as I pointed at her little children. I waved and smiled afterward trying to show I wasn't a child killer or something, but she still looked horrified.

The guys were laughing, but I felt so embarrassed.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Postmodernism VS Conservatism

Note: I apologize for these definitions, because I know they are broad and not entirely accurate. But they're the best I can come up with. In this entry I am not speaking of all things or people labeled as "conservative" or "postmodern". I am dealing mostly with what I see in the religious arena, especially the extremes. I have been called both postmodern and conservative before, so I realize that labels can be deceiving. Instead, I'm dealing with two overall mindsets I see in American Christian society and their implications.

In the religious world:

Postmodernism: A prevailing mindset that spirituality is more important than truth. If something makes you a better, more spiritual, and loving person, then the means that made you that way are mostly insignificant. When truth and love battle, love always wins.

Conservatism: Keep things the way they've "always been". As long as we believe it is true, the implications are mostly insignificant. Facts are more important than people. When truth and love battle, truth always wins.

Believing things because they were true used to be a prevailing thought. If it's true, it has to work. And throughout history we have seen people misuse things that were "true" in order to hurt other people. Many Americans hate Christians because they have seen many arrogant, judgmental, and abrasive people shove their faith in others' faces. "If this is truth, I don't want it", many non-Christians would say.

In the postmodern mindset, if something works it has to be true. If there is some inconsistency with the Bible, tradition, systematic theology, or any other idea then people just point at the results. For example, if a Buddhist idea helps you to treat others better and live life more spiritually, it's not really that big a deal if it somehow contradicts with Christianity (or at least the common perception of "Christianity", they'd say).

It is my opinion that both of these mindset have strengths and weaknesses, but they are both extremely dangerous. Both bring down the Supremacy of Christ (His Redemption and Teachings) in order to establish something else: a human idea.


Many people are sick of the conservative mindset, and so am I. People are tired of seeing private agendas, pride, and tradition being pushed through the religious and social arena. People are tired of abrasive people who are more concerned with facts than people. Pride is disgusting when shown, and most people have seen someone argue something that was true, but in a manner that showed they cared more about their idea than the person they were talking to. I used to do this a lot. I think that many evangelicals have misinterpreted key Scriptures in the Bible, so I made it my goal to "correct" them. However, I had a "me vs. them" mentality that was disgusting. Instead of assisting my fellow human being get closer to God because I loved them deeply, I was passionate about an idea. I think the primary problem with the conservative mindset is that truth and facts are set up as priority, rather than people.

This is seen in Churches chastising people for being different, not forgiving others' public sins, giving up friendships because of disagreements in theology, and anything in between. The Pharisees did those things, and Jesus slammed them for it. The Bible says that "Mercy triumphs over judgment", but I'm afraid many get it backwards. In doing so they (including myself) have denied the essence of Jesus' Message in order to establish the letter. This is scary, and we see the repercussions of this in America. (For example, if I even mention I'm a Christian to a stranger I'm prepared to see a look of disappointment, disgust, or even anger.)


There's so much of postmodernism that I love. Much of my life as a Christian I viewed the Scriptures as a law book. But it's not. We were freed from the law, in order to live by faith (Gal. 3:24-25). Books like Velvet Elvis and Blue Like Jazz both helped me to expand my spirituality to consider the implications and essence of living for Jesus, rather than just the facts. They helped me to move my faith from theoretical to practical, and I love that. Too many people go to Church on Sunday, but that's where their faith stays. Postmodernism calls people to move their faith away from ritual to reality.

However, in an effort to bring faith into practice many have abandoned the truth of faith altogether. In order to make faith practical, many have discarded the idea that Jesus can be the only way to Heaven. As I said in the definitions: if truth and love battle, love wins. To say Jesus is the only way to Heaven condemns a lot of people. "That's not love", they would say. But it's really no love at all to "accept" other teachings that bring down what Jesus did on the cross for all people, everywhere. Jesus didn't come to bring another idea, He came to rescue people from sin. And He is the only way. Many see that as bigotry, but it's a free gift! It's an expression of God that mankind can be forgiven and not condemned. I don't see what's unloving about God becoming a person, pouring out all He was for His beloved creation, dying gruesomely for it, and then asking people to accept that love as the only thing that can make a person righteous. I say it's beautiful.

In books like Velvet Elvis, the writer elevates his own agendas more than the truth of Christ in some areas. I think we need to take care of the Earth God gave us, because we are thankful to God for it and want to be responsible stewards. However, this is not a major teaching of Christ. The Bible makes it clear that the two most important commands are loving God and loving people. The third is not to keep the Earth healthy. In order to make it that way, you have to abandon truth and establish your own agenda. This kind of thing makes me so sad.

The Conclusion

The problem with any false teaching is that it always brings down the Sufficiency and Supremacy of Jesus Christ. In the first few centuries Paganism, Gnosticism, and Judaistic Legalism all asked people to put their trust in something other than Christ and Him crucified.

Conservatism misses the mark: For God so loved the world that He sent His only son. If we don't love people, we're missing the very motivation Jesus had for dying at all. I believe in Jesus, and I believe everything He said is 100% truth. However, I think that many have missed the implications of Jesus' teachings and instead have used Jesus as a sword to judge others and justify their own lifestyle. But that has nothing to do with the Jesus of the Bible. Jesus loved people deeply, personally, and sacrificially. He calls us to do the same, regardless of a person's beliefs or lifestyle. If we aren't doing this, we can't really say we follow Jesus.

Postmodernism, while beneficial in some ways, can elevate human philosophies, ideas, and "innovations" above Christ and His Word. However, the answer is not in new ideas. New approaches are wonderful, but changing the message of Christ is nothing short of damnable. If there are other ways to Heaven than Jesus, evangelism is a silly idea. People dying for their faith in Christ is stupid, and being a missionary is also a waste of time. Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection is the only way to Heaven, and it's my belief in that which makes me share it. I share it because I love people, and I want them to know the beautiful message that Christ came to save us.

Let us not be persuaded by popular religious ideas and mindsets, but rather let us come to Christ: Our Redeemer, Master, Friend, and Comfort.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of this world, and not based on Christ. Col. 2:8.

This is an old admonition from Paul, but let's take it seriously today.