Last fall, I attended the Big Tent Christianity conference in Raleigh. While there, I had the opportunity to hear Peter Rollins speak and I really enjoyed it. Peter was born in Belfast, educated at Queen’s University in Dublin and he has that classic Irish brogue. Here’s sample:
See what I mean? While I admit that I have an almost unreasoning affection for Irish accents, you have to agree there’s just something about words spoken in that lilting cadence. I love listening to Peter Rollins; reading Peter Rollins is another story. In the past year and a half, I’ve read a lot of stuff in the emergent vein and his work never fails to make me incredibly uncomfortable. , For example, take this blog entry from last week. At a recent speaking engagement, Peter says he was constantly questioned about what he believes. The last day he was there, he decided to point out how what we say often doesn’t match up with what we do. He went on to give some examples that made me squirm. If I say I oppose child slavery, but I buy chocolate made from cocoa beans that I know were picked, or even could’ve been picked, by children held against their will; then, however tacitly, I believe in child slavery. Or, if I buy cheap clothes at a large department store without at least basic questions over where they came from, I am agreeing with sweatshops. By not protesting rendition flights and the heinous acts occurring at Guantanamo Bay and other places, I am approving torture. Everyday, in a thousand little ways I don’t even think about, my actions give the lie to what I say I believe.
Wow, you say, that’s hard. Yes, it is. Especially, when you consider it doesn’t stop there. In his book, Radical, David Platt uses the story of the rich, young ruler to show the skewed priorities of American Christianity. Platt and his wife, along with quite a few members of the church he pastors have given up many luxuries in order to follow the words of John Wesley, founder of Methodism and social justice activist: “Having, First, gained all you can, and, Secondly saved all you can, Then give all you can.”
I won’t go into my embarrassment that a Baptist is doing a better job of following the instructions of my denomination than I am; it’s little raw, yet. But, again, these words are hard to hear. They make me uncomfortable and I don’t like that. I want a faith that’s comfortable, a path that’s wide and smooth and easy to walk. But, it doesn’t work that way. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Over the years, we’ve been led to believe this passage was referring a set of rules about moral behavior; things like don’t drink, don’t have sex outside of marriage, don’t be gay, etc. While I do think it’s about moral behavior, I disagree with what that behavior entails. For me, morality is less about sex and more about treating everyone equally. It’s less about drinking alcohol and more about making sure my everyone, everywhere, can drink clean water. It’s most definitely not about excluding anyone from the fellowship of Christ and most definitely about welcoming everyone with open arms. That’s what He was talking about. And, it’s damn sight harder than anything we’ve been told over the years.