Friday, July 10, 2015

Bacon Eating Vegetarian

A word to my Christian brothers and sisters:

I'm often troubled by what I hear coming from those who claim to be followers of Jesus. It makes me think of someone who proudly announces that they are now a strict vegetarian, only they have no intention of giving up bacon. The absurdity of a bacon eating vegetarian should be apparent to all. But wait... Not so fast. A simple reclassification of bacon as a vegetable and they're right back on track to becoming vegetarian-of-the-year. It should be obvious that this type of delusional self-deception is ultimately unhelpful to the bacon eating vegetarian. Perhaps they should think about whether or not they actually want to be a vegetarian to begin with. If so, they must acknowledge that a true commitment to vegetarianism will mean meat is off the menu. This may be a difficult journey, marked by peaks and valleys, for the would-be-vegetarian (bacon is delicious, after all). On the other hand, the bacon-eating-vegetarian may decide that they love bacon more than they love vegetarianism. Either of these two alternate outcomes (in lieu of bacon being reclassified as a vegetable) would be intellectually honest. You may think you know where I'm going with this. Don't be so sure.

Likewise, Jesus' invitation to "follow me" comes with an all-encompassing, non-negotiable decision on our part. He introduces a radical new way to be human. His treatment plan for the universal illness plaguing humanity is drastic: A life transplant. His for ours. Only it's no good if he pours his life into a hostile host, bent on rejecting the transplant at every turn. We are all born enemies of God. As such, it's no surprise that most of our intuitive responses and proclivities are in opposition to his original plan for humanity. Before he will proceed with our rescue, we must agree to an unconditional surrender. More than that, we must willingly lay down everything we are, our hopes and dreams, identity, most dearly held ideologies, and even our very lives. This is not a cruelty on his part, as some may think. He simply knows that the transplant will not take under any other circumstances. We have to willingly commit to his process, his Kingship, his way of thinking (even if, and especially when, it's at odds with our way of thinking). It's part of the deal. He'll have it no other way.

Here's where our conversation leaves the theoretical and enters the actual. This is where our deeply held beliefs/preconceptions are called into question by an uncompromising, radically thinking (as you would expect from a God-man living in a devastatingly broken world), unforgettable and unavoidable person named Jesus. Here's where we get "offended." To my Christian friends on the Right, who eat and breath Fox News as manna from Heaven, are hyper-patriotic (unquestioningly absorbing/endorsing/defending elements of the "American Dream" that are completely antithetical to the Gospel of Christ and speaking of the Constitution as if it were penned by Moses on Sinai), gleefully relish military and police violence (necessary as it may be at times), have a religious dedication to the Second Amendment, are advocates for racist and uncharitable attitudes toward neighbors and immigrants (documented and undocumented alike), are engaged in all out warfare against the sin of homosexuality (while maintaining polite/timid dissent against more rampant manifestations of sexual brokenness, such as, divorce, pornography, and the wholesale dehumanization of girls and women that is common in our mainstream culture), let me remind you of the guy we follow (by the way, he's headed in a totally different direction). If the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear words like ISIS or Islamic Fundamentalist is "Blow them all to Hell" or "'Merica!," then I'm talking to you. If your full-time, Facebook, article-posting campaign to "secure the border" or "stem the influx of Sharia Law (code word for Islamic immigrants)" leaves you little time to contemplate what obeying God's commands for hospitality to immigrants may look like in our context, then please lean in. Jesus was/is politically, socially, religiously counter-cultural (and he always will be -until his return). He spoke of a self-sacrificing, shared, commonality of goods and resources practiced among his people, for example, that would make any good Capitalist squirm. He demanded a devotion to him and his kingdom that superseded any other political affiliation. He insisted that his followers "love their enemies" and dramatically demonstrated this extreme pacifism of which he spoke wasn't just "figurative" in nature by praying for and forgiving his murderers as they went to work on him. He practiced a kind of holiness that attracted sinners to himself while simultaneously repelling the self-righteous. Can it be said of you that you're a "friend of sinners?" I'm not asking if YOU identify yourself as their friend. I want to know if THEY would identify you as "friend." Jesus is not overcome by evil. He overcomes evil with good, and characteristically destroys the real enemy in a counter-intuitive way. Like him, love him, hate Him -Don't you dare change him!

To my Christian friends on the Left, who champion Secular Humanism above the Word of God, those who are preoccupied with generic social justice with little to no mention of the God who defines justice (attempting to bring the Kingdom without the King), who are overly concerned with being "relevant" rather than being faithful witnesses of the Gospel of which they have been intrusted, who pervert the meaning behind "freedom in Christ" and ignor the holiness that Jesus modeled (ingesting irredeemable filth under the guise of being "culturally aware"), who would bend Christ's words to advocate any number of popular ideas, and who would fail to warn the broken of their brokenness for fear that it may be seen as "too harsh" or "unloving" (they would rather reinterpret/re-understand/reimagine the plain meaning of Scripture than cause offense -well intentioned as they may be), let me remind you of the King we worship. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do not mistake his love of mercy as a disregard for righteousness. Jesus affirmed every Scripture that came before his incarnation. He is a consuming fire. The same Jesus who said "judge not" and "love your enemies" warned us not to fear man who can only harm the body but to reserve our greatest regard, awe, and fear for the one who has power to cast our body and soul into the Hell we all rightfully deserve. He will not update himself to appeal to the ever-changing palette of "modernity," and it does no one any good to follow apologetically behind him (far behind him), perpetually embarrassed by his politically incorrect perspective of reality.

The purpose of my post is not to debate and resolve the undeniably complicated real-world questions facing the church (i.e. violence to protect reconciled with biblically prescribed pacifism (just war theory, capital punishment, etc.), which known economic/political system/party is most in line with the Gospel, how best to affirm God's stated plan for human sexuality while fighting for justice for all in the "marriage equality" debate, what's the balance of Love and Truth, etc.). My purpose is to challenge the Christian heart that practices selective listening to God's Word (on both the Left and the Right). I fear for my Christian brothers and sisters who would re-frame the Gospel to be comfortably compatible with rabid materialism, war mongering, and racism as much as those who would make the Gospel a partner with sexual impurity, relativism, and universalism. If we're set on faithfully following the commands of Christ (especially the ones that we find distasteful, impossible or scary), then we need to stop mindlessly regurgitating Franklin Graham, John Piper, or Rob Bell's (or whoever your go to guy or gal is) opinions and courageously, unflinchingly look to Jesus with an obedient heart that really wants to know (with the intent of following). This honest, long look at Jesus (rather than quickly Googling a series of verses that seem to confirm what you already believed about racial reconciliation, same-sex sexuality, prosperity, abortion, etc.) will undoubtedly challenge some deeply held personal convictions. It will be a painful process. Dying often is. My hope and prayer for Jesus' church is that we would graciously listen to each other as we work through these issues, and that we'd look a little less like polarized, cartoony, caricatures of the Left and the Right and more like Jesus, who is better than we could have hoped or dreamed. If our plan is to follow him, though, then we need to be ready to part with any and all of our most deeply held convictions and preconceptions. We need to recognize from the start that following Jesus will be the death of us, and get right to the dying, so we can move on to the far-superior new life.

You can't be a vengeful/sexually immoral/greedy/self-righteous/etc follower of Jesus. Vengeance, sexual impurity, materialism, idolatry, pride, etc are in-congruent with Jesus and his Gospel. However, you can be a recovering vengeful/sexually immoral/greedy/self-righteous/etc follower of Jesus through the power of his Gospel. So what's it gonna be, bacon-eating-vegetarians?

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