Let me first say that this post will be a somewhat departure from the norm. Sure you'll read a little about what I've been doing but today's post will be discussing a particular issue that has cropped up in my view the last few days. At times it may seem like I'm ranting, or a little scattered as I'm discussing several smaller aspects under this one large umbrella; you'll just have to bear it. So what exactly will you read about today- well it's the controversial topic of religion.
I spent most of last week in Denver, Colorado attending a work conference. While there I saw a CNN documentary entitled God's Warriors. The reporter had spent eight months going around the world studying the major religions. She focused on why people believed in this religion, how it shaped their lives, why they were willing to become God's Warrior and what that truly meant. It was a multi-day documentary and I missed a few days. I missed the report on Judiasm but did happen to see the one on Islam and subsequently the report on Christianity. Also, I believe, there was a report on Buddhism as well, but missed it. First off, I was very impressed by the reporting. She was very straightforward in the facts, presented it in a very unbiased way (which can be extremely hard to do) and she basically let the people and their actions speak for themselves. The really interesting aspect of the program was the age group she targeted. In each religion she bascially spoke with the Generation Xers (my generation: 21-40). This group was targeted for many reasons. We have parents or grandparents who were religious and thusly tried to impart it on us, we're the emerging leaders of tomorrow, we've let the morality of the world change, and we're the ones now forced with fixing the problems left for us in order to ensure a better society for those younger generations. We're also a very cynical, unhappy, materialistic group, so I'm not surprised that's who were targeted.
As she spoke with them about their faith and why they had chosen to follow it I was amazed to hear that so many young people (both here in the states and abroad) were turning to other religions. I was shocked to learn these facts and appalled upon hearing the reasons why a typical American teen had turned to Islam. Reasons such as legalism, hypocracy, and conformity were rampant themes. I wondered was this really true, what view was Christianity portraying to the world. Well I got my answer as the next night was a broadcast on "God's Christian Warriors". Now granted, I know this document was only showing one side, one angle to the story, showing only certain people to fit the mold, I understand that, but still it's disturbing. We've all heard about the pillars of faith here in the States but I don't think any of us have ever stopped to see and understand what type of a message they actually portray. It's not pretty to those seeking. They seem ultra-conservative at times, almost to the point, as one person stated, of appearing to confine people by their beliefs and rules. (Rules they stated included no women in leadership roles in the church- not just pastorship, but any leadership roles- knee length or longer skirt and male submission). Now I have my own beliefs on these various issues and won't necessarily get into them here but I was just thinking that if that's the picture being portrayed to this lost generation then no wonder why they're running to more "peaceful, understanding and accepting" religions. I heard people from both broadcasts state that we should be accepted as we are without fear and that Christianity in its secular sense, as the world understands it, may not be the answer.
As I'm listening to this I'm thinking this can't be entirely true. Then they showed various "christian retreats". We've all been to them. Those times when we go somewhere, have large music shows, here speakers, and go back to our lives. Well they showed this one that completely made me appalled. Honestly I couldn't tell the difference between it and a glorified rock concert, except for the demonstrations across the street. These demonstrators were claiming that this group (I don't remember the name) didn't welcome everyone, wanted to impose ultra-conservatism upon them, etc. It was a ticking time bomb. For some reason this scene just stuck with me throughout the rest of the broadcast. Demonstrations from both sides is not what needs to happen. Yelling at others, trying to be the loudest from the pulpit or screaming hell, fire, and brimstone is not a way to show the Truth. I'm sitting on my hotel bed thinking whatever happened to love, which is the greatest of all. Whatever happened to acceptance, to Grace, to Peace? What's with all the noise, the glitz, the legalism? After listening to the various different pastors they spoke with I honestly got a bitter taste in my mouth, just this bad feeling that if something doesn't change soon the world is going to be radically different.
Now, not everything in the broadcast was bad on the Christianity front. She spoke with young college students who had decided to truly live in the Lord and what that meant for them. They talked about their struggles and the secularism of the world. I was really pleased to see them openly sharing and being willing to admit it's not perfect. Sadly, though, those few brief moments of sunlight did nothing to quell the darkness that I saw eminating. I just felt forcefulness, uncompassion, lack of understanding, and violence. Even when they talked about being active in politics (which I think any bible believing christian should do) I felt they were going at it all wrong. They were talking about bestowing these set beliefs onto the political arena, at finding those candidates that met them, and how they needed to change the politics into one the more firmly followed the Bible... or at least their view of it. I sat there thinking, 1. who are you to impose them, 2. what makes your views the "right" ones, 3. what happened to peace and grace? Why go in there with arms blazing... that never accomplished anything. We never see Christ in a confrontational manner; he always avoided it or never needed it. He used love, grace, and peace to show the world the Truth. Not gun slinging, my way or the highway attitudes. Being the loudest, most vocal, or even "right" never accomplished anything, and I think we've seriously forgotten that, which is why so many are turning away from the Truth and instead following darkness.
I also think we're missing genuiness. It was gospel day on the pavillon at work today. I didn't know this (having only decided to go outside to warm up) and found myself listening to some good ole black gospel music. It was nice, rhytmic, upbeat and I was completely fine with it. It was good praise music, a good time to have some quite moments with the Lord. Then they started to do what every praise leader does and trys to get the audience involved by clapping hands, saying Amen, lifting hands, etc. Well suddenly I was just struck that if people really were genuine in their faith, if it was truly lived the way Christ calls us to live then we wouldn't need any encouragement. We would have our hands up, singing at the top of our voices for Him. We wouldn't have to force it, as I felt and saw. We're too stuck in protocol, in what we're supposed to do, in perception to really open up and allow the Spirit to truly move us. I'm guilty of it and I don't know anyone who's not. But as that music made me think more over that broadcast I was reminded that Muslums really do live their religion. It's a complete part of their lives. They will pray five times a day (no matter where they are), the women (if they are devout) are fully covered with the head scarves.
They are unabashed and unashamad. So why aren't we? Why don't we open up fully and completely? Why don't we allow ourselves to truly show the Lord? If we did there would be no stopping what Christ would do. I don't have any answers. I, myself, am in need of lots of work, but now I know. Now it's time to change.... what about you?