Monday, March 27, 2006

Aquiring the Spirit - or Looking For It

My brother sent me an e-mail with a link to a SFGate story about the "Battlecry for a Generation" rally this last weekend in San Francisco, sponsored by Aquire The Fire ministries. Some 50,000 Christian teens descended on San Francisco, to decry "virtue terrorism" by the US culture at large, and, by choice of the location of this particular rally, to decry the wildly liberal lifestyles which are welcomed and, indeed, encouraged in The City.

I am a big fan of rallies, crusades, and marches that promote Christian values and allow Christians the chance to show their faith in a public and direct way. But... I have worries about them sometimes.

The group sponsoring the rally is an evangelical Christian organization, and as such is adamantly pro-life, pro-male/fem-marriage, as most evangelical Christians are, and as I believe the Bible teaches. What I also see, though, in this type of rally, is a very strong anti-gay, anti-lesbian, anti-whatever bias, which I find very wrong. Sadly, I think these young Christians are being misdirected by well-meaning, but intolerant and un-loving people.

Let me tell you why.

The Christian rally, numbering nearly 50,000 teenagers from across America, prompted California State Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, to tell counterprotesters at City Hall on Friday that while such fundamentalists may be small in number, "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."

Huh? What did he mean by that?

Loud? Probably... there were 50,000 happy, generally joyous and well-behaved teenagers singing and praying.

Obnoxious? Possibly, depending on how they interacted with protesters and anti-rally folks. They were mostly teenagers after all, but I don't think it's the teenagers the Assemblyman was referring to, rather their beliefs.

Disgusting? Hardly.... unless you are one, usually on the progressive side of the aisle, that thinks Christians are hateful, hardnosed, judgmental people hell-bent on telling you that your lifestyle, beliefs, and all that you hold dear are also disgusting, wrong, and that God hates that about you.

Too often, the disgusting view is exactly what too many non-believers take away from rallies like this in San Francisco this weekend. For them, it is reality.

While searching a bit on the news-story, I ran across a well written article posted at AlterNet.Org, an alternative lifestyle website. The article is thoughtful, and work-place friendly to anyone who wants to read it. The author makes some very good points, and I'd like to share with you my response to her and some of the posts, because I think she demonstrates very well how Christians are falling down on the job of reaching people who desperately need to be reached.

"I am one of those born-again Christers, as Joe Max put it. I am neither inbred or insane, as cmaukonen jokingly implied (at least I hope it was jokingly), and I happen to know several Christians who know exactly what a brutal attack is, thank you bettsoff. One of my friends literally had the bruises years ago to show for it.

What I see happening here, on the AquireTheFire side, is a sad hi-jacking of Christ's principals to in order to, as Melissa put it, market a product - Teen Mania.

Don't misunderstand - I believe very much in the pro-life, pro-heterosexual-marriage, etc etc, that Teen Mania seems to support and promote. I think it would be dishonest and disingenuous (sp?) of born-again Christians to be otherwise, because the Bible so clearly advocates those positions.

But the Bible also advocates love and gentleness and kindness to our fellow humans. Far be it from me to judge anyone who believes or lives differently from me, or to attack them. I'll happily tell you about the Jesus I believe it if you want to know, and hopefully I demonstrate by MY lifestyle the principals I believe in. But you have the right to live your lives as you see fit, without fear. I know what I believe in, and my faith isn't threatened by different ideas.

What disappoints me about the Teen Mania event is, as you pointed out, a decided intolerance toward, well, alternative-lifestyles folks. Melissa is right to feel like one of those who have had war declared on them. And Melissa is right to feel outraged that the purported followers of Jesus would "declare war" on her. I am outraged that any follower of Christ has "declared war" or is doing battle with any human being.

The Bible says "we (Christians) are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age..." meaning, spiritual battle. Ephesians 6:12

Christians believe in God, we also believe in Satan, and it's Satan we are to do battle with, in our spiritual lives, not fellow humans! I'll be honest, I want to win people to my side, to my way of thinking and my faith!

But I'm not gonna win anyone to my side by attacking them, and driving them away, and closing off any chance of discussion or discourse.

Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them. I just don't see "love" in Teen Mania, and again, that's sad, because it's what a whole generation of young Christians are being taught.

Jesus didn't lead rallies and decry the enemy. He did have VERY strong principals and ideas he taught, and he did not waver or detour from them one bit. He told people the truth (as he saw it, which I happen to believe) and people either accepted it or didn't. He didn't call them names if they rejected him (and boy, did he get rejected a lot - wait, he got killed because of his ideas, that's a big rejection), or get bitter and shout at people. He was gracious to the end.

No, he fed people. He healed people, talked to them, ate with them and drank with them. He loved people. You may not believe the miracles or whatever, but the principal is constant: he was kind and loving. That's what Christians should be, and that's not what we're seeing in Sf this past weekend, in my opinion.

Any time someone feels attacked by "Christians" representing the the Church and religion that I love and have faith in, and they feel picked on and "warred" upon, it is utterly saddening to me, and makes me ill.

It's not, in my opinion, the way to win people for Jesus. And that, after all, is the point of Christianity.

God Bless - and please, don't' judge us all by the few, as I'm certain you would ask of me, and I try my best to do."


sage said...

I like what you said and how you said it--showing a humility that from what I have seen by such mass rallys is seldom present. By making everything a "black and white" battle between the "good and bad," we tend to diminish our shortcomings (seeing ourselves as good) as we demonize those with whom we disagree. And in the end "evil" is the only "winner."

Nettie said...

Hm, interesting points. I hope I am that illustrative...