Under One Big Tent?

I’ll admit it, I’ve been lazy the last two weeks.  Well, last week wasn’t really laziness; I was tired.  I did a mission week with my youth group (that’s right, they’re mine.  I’ve sweat blood for those kids) and the work, the heat and the humidity did a number on me.  This week, though, was a different story.  I spent a glorious 6 days at the beach and I did not want to come back.  Unfortunately, real life has its demands.  That said, I’m back and posting again.

Coming to the Raleigh area in September is something called the Big Tent Christianity Conference.  Organized by Phillip Clayton and Brian McLaren, it’s a national gathering to start a conversation about where the church will go from here.  The main thrust is that if we want to move forward, we need to drop all this denominational stuff and return to the “one big tent” of the early Church.  This is a laudable and noble goal.  Unfortunately, it’s not very realistic.  I mean, the Baptists can’t even get along with themselves, much less anybody else.  Why do you think there are so many different Baptist churches.  If they have a falling out, the groups involved go off and start their own church.  Heck, sometimes the argument is so intense they start their own denomination.  There are American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Free-will Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Landmark Baptists, Reformed Baptists, Regular Baptists, Independent Baptists (these folks can’t get along with anyone!), Duck River Baptists and, my favorite, Two-Seed-in-the-Spirit Baptists.  That’s not all, I just don’t have enough room for the rest.  The point is if they can’t get along with folks whose beliefs fairly close to their own, they’re not going to do well dealing with the likes of us baby-baptizing Methodists. 

Truth be told, I like the idea of a “big tent” much better than the actuality of one.  Because, if we’re all under the same roof, who will I feel superior too?  I’m kind of like Ken Ham in that I have a lot invested in my current belief system.  Okay, not really like Ken, my livelihood is not based on it or anything like that.  But (and this may be more important) my Christian identity is tied up in being more open-minded and accepting than some folks.  And, being honest once again, I don’t like those people and don’t really want much to do with them.  I know that as a Christian, I’m supposed to love everyone.  Most of the time, however, I find it easier to love a devoted atheist than a hard-core Baptist.  Both can be condescending as hell, but at least the atheist won’t try to convert you. 

If I could talk to the organizers of Big Tent Christianity, I’d ask them one question.  Do we have let everyone under the tent?  Because, there’s a lot of folks I don’t want to be that close to.  My ex-wife, for example; she’s one of those hard-core Baptists I mentioned earlier.  Then, there’s the Calvinists; they think everyone who disagrees with them is a heretic.  Believe me, that gets old fast.  But, you know, I could handle letting all those folks in.  However, there’s one group I’d balk at: the folks from Westboro Baptist Church.  You know, the “God hates fags” people?  Yeah, I’d have a problem being cooped up with them.   I try to love everyone, I really do.  But, I swear, some days the best I can manage is suppressing the urge to slap the shit out of people like that.  Distinctly unChrist-like, I know.  He may have had thick-headed disciples and Pharisees to deal with, but none of those guys protested at a funeral with signs saying “God Hates You” or “Fags Doom Nations” while calling themselves followers of Christ. 

Okay, I hope you realize that this entire post has been tongue in cheek (well, all except the part about Westboro.  I really don’t like those guys).  I was trying to make a point, though.  The fact is, even though there are a lot of people out there in Christendom that I disagree with or even really don’t like, I don’t get to choose who’s in and who’s out.  That decision was made a lot higher up the chain and I have to deal with it.  As I am loved unconditionally and without reserve, it’s incumbent upon me to love everyone in the same manner.  Sinner or saint, Christian or atheist, I don’t get to choose who my neighbor is.  And, part of the greatest commandant is “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  And, even though I suck at that, I still have to let them under the tent.