Breaking Ranks With Jesus
As many of you know, for the last couple years, I’ve been on the hunt for better descriptors than generic words like “friendship” and “connectedness” which don’t, for me, scratch the surface of the spiritual properties of bondedness.
Unfortunately, often times, the gifted critic in me is better at identifying the opposite of the values I stand for. What bothers me the most? What deficits am I working against? What will I always, in almost every scenario, refuse to keep quiet about?
One of the frustrations that haunts me is the practice of breaking ranks.
To delineate in a way that won’t satisfy all of you, I’ll note I’m all for difference of opinion, for holding to your convictions, standing your ground. All day long.
But sometimes, honestly asserting what we believe seems to cross this hazy line into a kind of sticky image management, where we make it our policy to take the stage (or send out a press release or post an open letter to whomever) for the express purpose of dividing ourselves from others.
Today, I was reminded of that, as it came to light the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod demanded an apology from one of his pastors. The offense, it seems, was that one of his pastors had offered a prayer in a service honoring the victims or the Sandy Hook shooting…in which members of other religions participated.
Morris responded by offering said apology.
As a human being who hopes to live charitably, and more so, as a person of faith, the deficit of love in this action frustrates me to sickness.
We used Christian beliefs to justify telling another human being to publicly recant a prayer? To take back words presented to God on behalf of the hurting, because the time and circumstances in which they were offered were not deemed appropriate? Or, at least, to act as though the prayer should never have been offered in the first place?
To say that when surrounded by devastated, hurting human-beings, it can somehow be the wrong thing to appeal to God on their behalf?
Or that somehow a person’s allegiance to God is compromised, rather than embodied, when they offer a prayer to God while surrounded by people with divergent beliefs?
I understand the religious dynamics at play, but it troubles me that a group of believers would logically sanction this choice to tell the world it was more important, in the name of Christ, to disassociate from that prayer that day then it was to let that act of kindness, offered in the name of Jesus, stand.
I won’t, however, disassociate myself from the guy who offered the apology or even from the guy who demanded it. Because I know what it’s like to feel torn between doing what you think is right and doing what some particular religious camp might expect or demand of you. This was the pressure the pastor identified, “There is sometimes a real tension between wanting to bear witness to Christ and at the same time avoiding situations which may give the impression that our differences with respect to who God is, who Jesus is, how he deals with us, and how we get to heaven, really don’t matter in the end.”
So I have to claim my identity next to the other humans, on the right, on the left and in between, who habitually and hopefully unintentionally sometimes skew God’s grace in tasteless ways.
But I still can’t help but pointing out the terrible irony at work when this happens.
How I’m pretty sure if Jesus was walking the planet in this era, a lot of current day Christians would demand he issue a press release to clarify he was just eating with the drunks, but he himself is not a drunk. That we’d pressure him to post something on his blog to stress the prostitute just tags along after him, but he doesn’t embrace her as a member of his team. That we’d ask him to issue a public apology for teaching in the synagogue, lest he accidentally give people the impression he–like some of those in the room who believed differently–didn’t accept the Messiah.