Thinking Out Loud

Thinking Out Loud May 1, 2015

think out loud 2One of the first lessons clergy learn in their ministry is that being “the preacher” comes with lots of assumptions – some good, and some…not so much. It is amazing how people broach religious and political topics with me with the idea I share the same assumptions simply because I am a pastor.

Sometimes when I’m in public, I wish I could be pastor incognito. Upon introducing myself to complete strangers, I’ve discovered that once I reveal my vocation, often they try to lure me into conversations that I’d rather avoid or that require more thoughtful reflection.

So for the sake of cathartic pleasure, here is a glimpse at a few unspoken responses that have gone through my head as I was “put on the spot” by persons who wanted to pick my brain on particular topics:

  • No, I have not read the latest book by John Hagee or David Jeremiah. Nor do I intend to do so. Ever.
  • Yes, I’ve heard that Heaven is for Real is an inspiring and moving film. No, I haven’t seen it. And no, I haven’t read the book. To be honest, I believe the Bible is sufficient for me to affirm whatever afterlife God intends.
  • No, I don’t believe that prayer should be “put back in public school.” Seriously. Is this still a thing for people? I prefer to follow Jesus’ advice to pray without making a public show of it. Coercion is not the way of Jesus. Plus, as a parent of a child in public school, I’m not sure I want certain adults leading prayer – especially if the deity being invoked is a generic, unspecified deity. Christians don’t worship a God who is dull, boring, and without particularity. Rather, we worship the one revealed to us in a first-century Jew who was accused of immorality, insanity, blasphemy, and treason, and was crucified via a conspiracy between religious leaders and government officials.
  • No, I don’t think Christians in America are being persecuted. What I do think is that some Christians in America are upset because we are no longer the privileged religion in the culture. And I say that’s fine. No more perks. No more discounts on our meals. No more reserved parking spots at City Hall. No more front-row seats in the places of power. Time for us to go to the back of the line. According to Matthew 20:16, that seems to be where Jesus wants us.
  • No, I don’t think we’re living in “the End Times.” I don’t care how popular the latest published batch of apocalyptic drivel is. Just because a certain mega-pastor has read the latest headlines about the conflict in the Middle East, the Ebola scare, blood moons, and teen pregnancy, and has connected a few dots, doesn’t mean he or she has connected the dots correctly. It would take too long for me to explain the whole history of Dispensationalism. Come to my 12-week study of Revelation. Then we can talk more.
  • Yes, I know they made a big-budget film based on the Left Behind novels starring Nicholas Cage. No, I don’t think I’ll be seeing it. And no, I haven’t read the books.
  • No, I don’t believe the modern political State of Israel is the same as biblical Israel. If you believe that, then we just need to change the subject. That is an extreme fundamentalist position so far out of line with the consensus of traditional Christian theology that I don’t have time or energy to dismantle. It would require you to completely rearrange your biblical hermeneutic and probably everything your parents, grandparents, and Sunday school teachers taught.
  • No, I haven’t seen God’s Not Dead. Why? Because I already know that. And no, I haven’t read the book that is based on the movie that is based on an old Internet urban legend.
  • No, I don’t really have a clue as to what we should do about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m not an expert in foreign affairs or international diplomacy. Like most Americans, I can’t even comprehend an episode of Dr. Who, much less a geopolitical struggle that dates back a few generations. I have a surface knowledge of the conflict with just enough information gleaned from various media outlets to make me marginally informed and slightly ignorant. Yes, I realize that for some people, the “good guys” and “bad guys” are easy to identify. But for me to assume that privileged 21st-century Westerners can fully articulate and comprehend a struggle in another part of the world that has factions, splinter groups, and cultural/religious/political dimensions is asking a bit much. My suspension of disbelief has its limits.
  • Yes, Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse and Operation Christmas Child have done tremendous charitable work around the world. Praise God! But Franklin comes across as an arrogant, self-righteous bully, and his approach to the Bible leaves no room for interpretive nuance. No, I don’t share his views about Islam or his belief that homosexuals seek to indoctrinate children. And no…[sigh]…I haven’t read his book either.

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