Monday, October 11, 2010
A Gospel with a Toothless Grin
It is statements like this from Campolo that got me thinking: "I think that Christianity has two emphases. One is a social emphasis to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society - to relieve the sufferings of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice. The other emphasis is to bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ... Fundamentalism has emphasized the latter, mainline churches have emphasized the former. We cannot neglect one for the other."
Now Campolo has lost any sense of the balance that once seemed to be part of his position. Elsewhere in scripture, we recognize that Jesus made a special effort to extend the invitation for inclusion in His Kingdom to the maimed, the blind, and the halt. According to the laws of the Torah and Talmud, such persons were to be excluded from the Temple, and were considered “unclean.” Yet Jesus makes a special effort to extend His invitation and love to these marginalized persons. Yes, this is true enough. But where it leads Campolo is well beyond the purview of Jesus's words, actions, or intent.
In our own day and age, the Evangelical community has marginalized our gay and lesbian and transsexual brothers and sisters. It doesn’t take much imagination to conclude that the Jesus who was always reaching out to the marginalized would be making a special effort in our contemporary society to express His love and to extend His invitation for fellowship to our modern day brothers and sisters who are estranged from our churches. To reach out to the LGBT communities and join them in their cry for justice, and to champion their efforts for inclusion in our churches, is to simply imitate Christ. Being followers of Jesus requires this.
But Jesus requires this... “To reach out to the LGBT communities and join them in their cry for justice, and to champion their efforts for inclusion in our churches,” Campolo writes,” is to simply imitate Christ.”
Such is the path of a Gospel which is not about the cross but about inclusion, not about salvation but about acceptance, not about forgiveness but about justice, not about repentance but "come as you are" -- it is this path that has become the poison pill of the ELCA and of other Protestant denominations. When the Gospel is no longer what Jesus defines, then it becomes the advocacy of things completely foreign to the Jesus who said "Go and sin no more." In the end, this Gospel is largely irrelevant for where this is no sin, there is no need of a Savior and where salvation is not the goal then the glorification of this life (and its excesses and vices) will replace virtue in every sense of the term. When this kind of Jesus smiles, it is a toothless grin. Why on earth would someone want to join a church whose agenda is the same as an agency of the government? At least the government agency is funded and does not have to beg at the door for money.
It is of great sadness that much of Evangelicalism is headed down this path forged by the mainline Protestant denominations. It should be rallying call to Lutherans to avoid this path and proclaim the truth in love, as St. Paul counsels, and show forth the love of Christ in the authentic acts of mercy that make His Word visible. Yes, Jesus did reach out to the marginalized. But not to bring them into the mainstream. He reached out to them to bring them into His Kingdom. In such a church as Campolo envisions, Jesus is not incarnate but spirit, a spirit for a time such as this, unleashed from any captivity to Scripture, morality, or objective truth. Some may think that gay marriage is dangerous to Christianity. Campolo's way of thinking is far more dangerous. It leaves us with a hand from God that is empty of anything except acceptance of who we are, as we are. Just as I am, Lord, let me be and let Your love still shine on me. Take away my shame and set me free, so I can live as me, guilt free.