MULTIFAITH – THE LOOMING “RELIGIOUS” CLIFF FACING AMERICA & THE WORLD
There is a lot of talk about the “fiscal cliff” that we all face and what the implications will be if both parties don’t address our financial situation here in the US. It will have huge implications not just in the US but globally. I believe as a nation we are facing 3 huge cliffs that are global in scope. The first is the fiscal cliff. The second is a “leadership cliff” – we no longer know how to compromise or work together, we are incredibly polarized and we see this globally as well as in government, as old leaders are ousted, new ones emerge and many countries are in the middle of that transition. Our leaders are driven by polls more than by a sense of right and wrong. The third cliff that is local and global in scope is the “religious cliff.” It’s intermingled in the first two as well. This cliff will be far more difficult to repair than simply new leaders and new capital. It runs the risk of creating havoc for decades to come if it is not addressed. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO FAIL HERE – THE PRICE IS TOO GREAT.
When people are rootless and the old systems don’t give stability they begin to look at life with deep and inner meaning. If they don’t find solid stable people and religious leaders to get counsel from, they are impacted by the extremist and fundamentalist of any faith and are driven to extreme positions. The man who is looking for faith is concerned with the question about “what’s real” and as a result he looks to the most literal and the deepest meaning of that source of truth. That isn’t bad when it leads to the best of a faith – but when it leads to leaders that find their identity in being a religious leader (not in their faith) with personal agendas it becomes very twisted and dangerous.
At its worst – it leads to religious “tribalism” and isolation and conquest of all others by any means necessary. Thus, faith becomes the legal system as well as the government. What happens when this is an evangelical?
1. We begin to categorize people and rate people on a “good” and “bad” scale instead of seeing them all as people that God created and loves. We give ourselves permission to have enemies and view them as people we must fight and destroy “for the sake of us.”
2. We begin to justify wrong behavior and the means to justify the end. Hatefulness, mean-spiritedness, harshness, and bullying are acceptable in this kind of faith if not necessary. It isn’t a Gospel of love.
3. We push our agendas irrespective of others, because we’ve marginalized them, and the result is they are now upset and we have begun the process of polarization. So, we fight other religions, their religious freedoms and their right to be a part of the broader society.
4. We view all things as “God on our side” which in turn doesn’t allow us to critique ourselves or think critically as we should on issues. We view faith as a conflict or clash instead of as a relationship with God and one another that should naturally spread as it did in the 1st century church.
5. We take innuendo in Scripture and begin to build false straw men, which causes us to take positions globally, politically, and otherwise. With that same sense of “right”, we approach the world politically in a Western context, that doesn’t exist in the rest of the world, and unintentionally create even more problems. Few things have hurt the church more and the spread of the Gospel more than fundamentalist dispensational pre-millennialism – it’s caused 1.5 billion people to think we despise them – and that is a tragedy. Why can’t we simply say “Jesus is coming back – get ready?” Instead of “Jesus is coming back – get the Hell out.”
6. We become horrible “PR” agents – or evangelists – for the Gospel. Sadly, we become the biggest obstacle to people hearing the message of Jesus. The world fails to see Jesus for our politics, personas, and agendas.
7. We lose our transparency and have multiple conversations – mixing them up, no one ever knowing for sure who we are or where we stand or what we believe. We say one thing privately and another thing publicly which sets us up for conflict.
8. We trade an “eternal” worldview for a “temporary” worldview thinking we have to force the kingdom here for it to come. The Kingdom of God/Jesus – is a kingdom of the heart where his laws are written on our heart and lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about laws – we should – it should mean we realize it’s first what’s in a man’s heart. God says that.
Who has to address it? First of all pastors and religious clerics have to connect with one another, build friendships with one another in order to hear and understand where each other is coming from. Second, and this is key, those pastors and other religious clerics have to work hard to connect their congregations in natural and organic ways to develop friendships and respect for one another. If they fail to do this, there will be more polarization and isolation. It’s a lot harder to hate someone you become friends with.
This is a really big deal we can’t afford to fail at this. We aren’t going away – and they aren’t going away. It’s time for us as evangelicals to ask ourselves some hard questions: Do we really believe Jesus died on the cross for all men, or just us? Do we really believe we have a responsibility to share Jesus with all people or just the ones like us or the ones who agree with us politically or socially? Do we really believe how we share the Gospel and represent the Gospel, how we live the Gospel matters? Do we really believe the Holy Spirit lives inside of us and transforms the hearts of men and women? Are we looking at people through the eyes of “man” or through the eyes of Jesus? Are we living with an eternal purpose in mind or of a temporary world order?
I know the response – “yes, but,” and “if they would do this, then we would do this”. I’ve counseled young couples getting divorces – and it always breaks my heart. At the end of the day, here’s what I say to that young man or woman who’s been left or who’s blown it and it’s too late. “You can’t change them, you can only change yourself. Work on you. Maybe they’ll come back, maybe they won’t –but at least you will have made progress on yourself – and you can never lose doing that.”
God help us evangelicals to love DEEP & WIDE. This is why I wrote BOLD AS LOVE.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.