I spend a lot of time actually discussing religion and politics with folks who are neither political or theological conservatives. This is primarily at a "faith and politics" site called Street Prophets. I have been there long enough that I am a part of the community - at least in the sense that "crazy uncle Ernie" is part of your family; or the pit bull barking at you when you walk by is part of your neighborhood (Just kidding - mostly - I have good friends there as well). Maybe you would be happy if they both disappeared, but it would change your world.
One of the drawbacks of it is that I have to deal with a question like
Where were the shocked and outraged evangelical reactions when Falwell and Robertson both asserted that God made (or permitted--a fine distinction) 9/11 to happen, and that it was the fault of gays, liberals, feminists, pagans and so forth?This question is not unique to me. Muslims who aren't terrorists have to answer it, atheists complain of having to answer for some of their ilk, (and liberals, and conservatives, and Republicans, and Democrats, and . . .) are all expected to have denounced any nutcases in their particular tribe.
The implication is if droves of Evangelicals do not stand up and bash "our leaders" everytime one of them stands on a stage and makes a fool of themselves - then we are responsible for their buffoonery.
In my opinion, I really am only responsible for:
- The Bible - and only because I believe in sola scriptura; and its inspiration and inerrancy
- What I personally draw from and hold as my theology from the Bible and other sources
- My church and the words of my Pastor that I publish and agree to
- Our leaders -- Amy Sullivan said it well:
the evangelical community (and even the conservative evangelical community) is very diverse and doesn't have one acknowledged leader.She went to give a list - but it showed how impossible making a list is. The folks she mentioned are on as broad a theological and political spectrum as can be imagined.
My leaders have been my pastors - the teachers that work through scripture with me.
- Handling those leaders mistakes -- Going to scripture, as I usually will, I can see that if I am going to correct a fellow follower of Christ that I have to:
- Be humble and do not judge:
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Romans 2:1 Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?
- Remember who their boss is:
Exhortation to Mutual Forbearance
Romans 14:1 Now receive the one who is weak in the faith, and do not have disputes over differing opinions. 2 One person believes in eating everything, but the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not despise the one who does not, and the one who abstains must not judge the one who eats everything, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
- Do it in love:
1 John 2:9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness. 10 The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 Corinthians 13:2 And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
- Do it to lift them up:
Ephesians 4:29 You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need, that it may give grace to those who hear.
- and, do it in private, in person, and with as few people involved as possible:
Restoring Christian Relationships
Matthew 18: 15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.
- Be humble and do not judge:
One side issue: we are often accused of saying someone is "not a Christian" when they act badly. If I have given that impression, I wish to go on record (or point to C.S. Lewis's record) with how I view it:
It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men's hearts. We' cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense. And obviously a word which we can never apply is not going to he a very useful word . . .Now, this is a very Biblical examination of my responsibilities to my fellow follower of Christ when I think he has done wrong. However, from my experience, the general principles here are easily expanded outside of Christianity, and indeed outside of religion, to relations between folks in general.
We must therefore stick to the original, obvious meaning. The name Christians was first given at Antioch (Acts xi. 26) to 'the disciples', to those who accepted the teaching of the apostles. There is no question of its being restricted to those who profited by that teaching as much as they should have. There is no question of its being extended to those who in some refined, spiritual, inward fashion were 'far closer to the spirit of Christ' than the less satisfactory of the disciples. The point is not a theological or moral one. It is only a question of using words so that we can all understand what is being said. When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say he is not a Christian.
Y'all can chat about that too if you wish