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Meanwhile, over in Evangelical Land

October 15, 2014

I heard yesterday that the fasting-rising choice for a Halloween costume is a hazmat protection suit that those ministering to Ebola patients wear.  So, if somebody shows up at your door Halloween night wearing one, don’t panic, you are probably not being quarantined.

In a related story, the news has been filled for a few days now with reports out of Rome that the Catholic Church, in a two-week-long Bishop’s conference, is trying to come to grips with issues that modern families have.  In particular, this discussion is on how to include gays, the divorced, and cohabitating couples within in the church.  How are these stories related?  I will get to that.

To begin with let me acknowledge that I know there is a certain incongruity in having a gathering of old unmarried guys discuss issues on family and relationships but, hey, I give them credit for trying.  And the news has picked up on some interesting quotes.  Here is one:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?”  Just to make sure we understand what they are saying they also reported that “the mutual aid to the point of sacrifice [that] constitutes a precious support in…life” can also be found in homosexual partnerships.

While some Catholics are hailing this as a breakthrough in understanding within the church, others are saying “It’s not the final word and we’re going to have a lot to say about it.”

Other inclusive statements are being made about birth control, co-habitation and divorce.  It is clear that the church, while not changing its doctrine, is at least recognizing that these relationships are there and the burden is on the church to minister to them.  The thrust of the effort seems to be how we minister in a loving way in the world that actually exists.

Meanwhile, over in evangelical land, life goes on.  There is no sign whatsoever about trending toward inclusiveness.  On Fox News this past Sunday, Tony Perkins managed to earn himself a “False” rating from Politifact for saying “We know from the social science that children do best with a mom and a dad.”  Not exactly a “come on in” message.  If you are tempted to call Politifact a left-wing media tool please bear in mind that, at other times, it has been called a right-wing media tool.

Here in North Carolina, pro-traditional family advocates are pledging to fight on in an effort to reverse the overturning of our “Marriage Protection Amendment” by a federal court.  When I consider the legal landscape actually out there they are starting to sound like those Japanese soldiers holed up on desert islands for years after WW II was over.

And here is my problem.  Catholics seem to looking for ways to be inclusive and loving to gays and others they have excluded while, at the same time, holding fast to their long-held doctrines.  Evangelicals feel no such constraint, still cheerfully seeking to exclude these folks from marriage, adoption and church.  All this has me thinking about the hazmat suits.

I see the Catholic Church, while carrying the same doctrinal issues we have, seeking to bring in.  We on the other hand seem to be seeking to keep out.  We evangelize, make statements of love, and assure anyone who will listen that we don’t hate gays or whoever.  But we continue to wear our spiritual hazmat suits, making sure that we are not contaminated.  While this may be needed in Ebola it certainly is off-putting in evangelism.

I see the Catholic Church trying to reform itself to be a hospital, sending out the EMS teams to find the wounded and hurting.  Healing, in this model, comes after you are on the inside.  But all too often evangelical churches are coming across like fortresses, guarding carefully against allowing the contaminated in.  They are welcome, we say, but they need to be healed before we let them in.

I really don’t know what to do about this but here is a starting idea – stop telling same sex couples and the others that you love them.  That sounds odd, I know, but even I have trouble believing that line.  “You can’t get married, but we love you.”  “You can’t adopt children, but we love you.”  “You aren’t welcome in our church, but we love you.”   Maybe it is time to take off our hazmat suits and eat with the tax collectors and sinners; perhaps even at the next church social.


From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. Good thoughts sir. I don’t disagree with you.

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