Over the weekend, the Christian corner of the internet was abuzz with the news that Sojourners, bastion of social justice and perennial flag-waver of “leftist” causes, had turned down an ad from Believe Out Loud, “a trans-denominational effort to promote LGBT equality in mainline Protestant congregations”. The ad promoted a new campaign that features the following video:
I’m not going to comment on Sojourners’ action; that was done to death over the weekend with discussions that devolved into conservatives and liberals throwing rocks at each other, each trying to “out-good” the other. It was a lot like what happened in the wake of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden last week; positions were taken, scripture was quoted and not a damn thing was accomplished. So, rather than keep picking at the scab (as I do entirely too often), I’m going a different direction.
I’ve just started reading Peter Rollins’ book “The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales” (available for your Kindle at .99). It’s a collection of short stories that, although Peter won’t call them by the name, function as parables. The first one sets you down in an alternate universe where Christianity is illegal and you’re on trial for being a believer. The prosecution has had covert surveillance on you for sometime and has amassed a wealth of evidence against you. You’ve been seen not just going to church, but actually participating. They show you praying, worshipping and speaking in church meetings. They’ve gone into your home and brought out boxes of material that points to your belief; CCM cd’s, religious books, journals filled with poems and prose you’ve written attesting to your love for Christ, crosses and other icons that decorate your home. They bring out your dog-eared, well-worn Bible, the one filled with high-lighted passages and notes scribbled in the margins that remove all doubt that you don’t just read it, you devour it. All this is laid out before the court as evidence of your belief in God. It looks like an open-and-shut case and you’re mortified, knowing that conviction means life in prison at best. Many times throughout the prosecutor laying out his case you’re tempted to jump to your feet and deny it all, saying you don’t believe in such silly claptrap. But, you don’t; you won’t even open your mouth for fear that’s exactly what you’ll do. Even when the judge allows the opportunity to speak up and account for all this, you remain silent. You’re scared to death that if you do, you’ll make Peter’s denial of Christ look like an impassioned defense. Then, the trial’s over and it’s time for the judge to consider all the evidence, determine your guilt or innocence and pass sentence. You sit outside, knowing you’re doomed, waiting for the hammer to fall. After a few a minutes, you’re escorted back in and the judge finds you not guilty. After a brief moment of relief, you’re incensed. Everything presented proves you’re a Christian and this character says you’re not? When you demand an explanation, he tells you that it’s all just words on paper; you really haven’t done anything and you’re no threat to the system. He says run along and keep doing what you’re doing; we don’t care. In the commentary that follows, Rollins says that the idea for this tale came to him after seeing a bumper sticker on a car that read “If Christianity was illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” For me, by the standard presented in the story, the answer is no.
I say that because I’m not living a life that reflects the radical and subversive nature of the Gospel. I’m not giving a voice to the voiceless, a place to the displaced. I’m not standing up to the systemic oppression of those on the margins. If I was, Rollins asks, wouldn’t I find myself on the wrong side of that system? I look at what I’m doing and think “I go to church, I write and I’m not shy about saying what I think, I offer help to everyone I see that needs help, isn’t that enough?” The answer to that comes from the lovely Miz D and her sister, Tammy. After a sermon from their pastor about how it’s not enough just to “do church” and put your money in the plate, someone they know asked “What more does he want, how much is enough?”, Tammy answered “It’s never enough”.