Warning: I may step on some toes in this post. If so, I apologize in advance. I tried to keep my usual snarkiness to a minimum and at least partially succeeded. It’s also link-heavy, but there’s some deep stuff in here and others have explained way better than I have, so I relied on those explanation. I also Wikipedia isn’t the greatest source, but (generally) it’s more readable than most things and I previewed the entries. While they may not be perfect, it gives the basics. That said, read on.
I’m more excited about the N.C. UMC’s Pilgrimage (watch the video for an explanation) this year than I’ve ever been. Unfortunately, others don’t share that excitement. So far, I’ve heard of two churches who will not have anything to do with it. One, Edenton Street UMC, here in Raleigh, decided not to sponsor its youth group’s trip. Not to fear, though. The youngsters that want to go, along with their parents pulled the trip together and they’re without official sanction. The other is Garber UMC in New Bern. What they did is a little different. Garber was going to sponsor a Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event and invited other groups to help during the Saturday afternoon break. This week, we got an email saying they were pulling out and someone else needed to take over. Fortunately, someone stepped up and the event is still on. That’s just the two I know about, there may be others.
So, what’s making churches pull out of the premier youth event in North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church? One person: Bart Campolo. They don’t like his theology. Here’s a video that’s got them torqued:
Basically, Bart doesn’t subscribe to Penal substitutionary Atonement, which is cool with me as I’m a moral influence kinda guy. One line in the video caught my ear, because I’ve said variations of it myself more than once. I almost jumped up and hollered when, in response to the idea that someone had to die for us to be forgiven, he said “Your God must really suck if he has to kill somebody, that if He just can’t get around to forgiving you unless He kills somebody. It just doesn’t make sense to me”. This isn’t the first time Campolo has ruffled more conservative feathers. A few years back, he wrote an article titled “The Limits of God’s Grace“, in which he spoke about grace and free will, two major concepts in Arminian theology. I think the paragraph that probably rubbed the most people the wrong way was:
“You can figure out the rest. I don’t hate God because I don’t believe God is fully in control of this world yet. Heck, God is not fully in control of me yet, even when I want God to be—so how could I possibly believe that God is making all the bad stuff happen out there in the streets? I don’t hate God because I believe God is always doing the best God can within the limits of human freedom, which even God cannot escape.”
I like this, but I can see where some might have trouble with it. Yes, it offers up freedom on an unprecedented level; it also offers unprecedented responsibility. If there’s no cosmic umpire up in the sky watching and making sure everything comes out right, that means it’s all on us. As Steve Brown said in his book A Scandalous Freedom, “You are really and truly and completely free. There is no kicker. There is no if, and, or but. You are free. You can do it right or wrong. You can obey or disobey. You can run from Christ or run to Christ. You can choose to become a faithful Christian or an unfaithful Christian. You can cry, cuss, and spit, or laugh, sing, and dance. You can read a novel or the Bible. You can watch television or pray. You’re free…really free.” And, that kind of freedom can be scary as hell.
I’m sorry that some really good kids are going to miss out a really fun weekend with their friends. I’m sorry that they’re going to miss out on a chance to be unabashedly, unashamedly Christian and revel in all the dorkiness that can entail. Most of all, I’m sorry that they’re to miss a chance to hear what I think is going to be an excellent speaker giving what I think is going to be an amazing Christian message. It’s kinda sad.