I was so much older then; I’m younger than that, now. -Bob Dylan
I heard about man who met another man on a train. After some discussion they found that they had something in common – they were both long-time members of the Baptist church. Further discussion revealed that they were from the Northern Baptist movement and, to their glee, they both came from the same local chapter. While reveling in their new found camaraderie the first man pointed out that his church had adopted the Northern Baptist charter of 1795. The second man stood up, put on his hat, and said, “My church uses the charter of 1823, you heretic. I hope you burn in Hell.”
(That story is probably not true.)
Sometimes, our churches teach that exclusion is a virtue. We’ll proudly push people aside who don’t vote like we do, or we’ll pester our church members about every single theological issue until we know if they agree with us about every little thing. If there’s disagreement on any issue – no matter how obscure or harmless – we’ll split from them and start a better church which will surely stand as a shining beacon of Truth for the whole world…until the members start to disagree over the theological implications of church pews vs folding chairs. (You probably think that last part is a joke, but it happens.)
But there’s a better way. I’m no longer interested in whether or not the people seated near me at church share my views on apocolyptic themes or political decisions. We come together to do something more important that all of that.
Although, this happens at my church to people who aren’t Cowboys fans. You’ve been warned.
In older times, the church was at its best when Christians were encouraged to allow a variety of beliefs to co-exist within their walls as long as everyone could agree to some basics. (It wouldn’t do to have Christians who prayed to dragons and didn’t believe in God, for example.) As we all know, at one point the church left this sort of wisdom behind and began to persecute everyone who didn’t line up with their exact ideas. This was the church at its worst.
I’ve learned that my faith is more rewarding when I don’t exclude people over trivial matters. If I had kept doing things the old way I would have eventually pushed the whole world away while I stood alone. And that’s no way to do church.
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)