Over the past few years, I have undergone a faith shift of sorts. The faith of my youth has shattered under the pressures of life, the convictions I refuse to let go of about God, and the dogma that has weighed me down spiritually. Throughout this process, I have learned (and am still learning) to ask those necessary questions and I have been beckoned to come to terms with what I know about God through what God has revealed, not through charismatic traditions and legalistic nuances.
From this, I’ve come to love what I have termed to be “responsible theology”. This theology – this study of God and God’s character – is a relentless checking to make sure that what I believe about God and what I reveal about God to others is actually God, not simply what I’ve been taught or what I want God to look like.
The social scientist in me is always looking to understand people and how their environments affect who they are and how they view life. I always try to consider worldviews when informing what I know and what I believe. This is no different with religion.
I have been spending time thinking in response to the most recent events concerning Kim Burrell and her words about those who are LGBTQIA+. I’ve been thinking about her specific calling out of certain people. I’ve been thinking about how it all continuously spoke death and marginalization, not life and belonging (which Christ Himself said He came to provide, no?). Here’s the thing – if Christians are to represent God, how do we always find ourselves in a position of speaking death? What life, exactly, are we offering when we do things like this?
It seems to me that condemnation is part of the fabric of the Church as we know it, and that we are throughly confused on the difference between conviction and condemnation and whose job it is to do both. Everyone wants to talk about God and what the Word of God says but no one is studying. Very few people are doing the work to understand how we ended up where we are with our beliefs, how many of our current beliefs used to be “unacceptable”, or how culture has always shaped religious landscapes (even when we swear it hasn’t). All that most of us know is how to regurgitate what has been told to us with no due diligence to study or understand or actually ask God what God meant.
I get it – people tend to be more invested in what they feel the most powerful. This is the precise problem I ran into in seminary. It was easy for men to agree with and pass along theologically irresponsible information about women and their roles in the Church and home because it benefits them. It’s easy to constantly badger and police single people because somewhere along the way, someone said marriage is THE standard. It’s easy for straight people to agree with and place theologically irresponsible information on those in the LGBT community because somewhere along the way, someone decided that we cannot afford to look at the Imago Dei within them. The Church has thrived off one-upping the next person, whether we admit it or not. The Church has thrived off of putting the binoculars on others and conveniently skimming over our stuff…and the people we like.
What’s more egregious to me is that we’ll emphatically say, “there’s no sin greater than the next.” But.that.ain’t.how.we.be.actin’. It’s never been how we’ve been. God has increasingly become made in our own images, taking on our prejudices and biases, loving all of the things we love, and hating the things we hate. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
Before you are tempted to throw Scriptures at me, understand that just like data and numbers can be manipulated to tell the story one wants to tell, so can Scripture. So has Scripture. The purpose of this post to simply say that I want us all who call ourselves Christians to do better. I’ll be sure to start with myself first. And I welcome all of the Scripture you’d like to throw, which would speak to the problem as we prefer to use the Scripture as a weapon with no training and we’re wounding everybody.
As a pre-K teacher, I’ve learned that yelling and screaming at [little] people is rarely effective. Sure, you have some who will jump in line because that is their personality. But I get the best results when I listen first and when I take the time to dialogue. I get the best results when I remain open to being constantly teachable, even from my little 4 and 5 year olds, and they respond to me the best when they sense that from me. As with [little] people, so with [big] people. We’ve got people out here trying to get people to eternal life by constantly speaking death over them and to me, that’s hustling backwards.