Just the other day I was having a long talk with a good friend. While we both have identified ourselves as evangelicals, we both felt increasingly uncomfortable in the evangelical culture. For myself I think part of it is theological. Depending on your definition I’d still call myself an evangelical, even if I’d call myself a moderate one. I still love the bible and view it as authoritative. Like many other Anabaptists I see the life and teachings of Jesus as the focal point of scripture. So I’ve studied, and I’ve invested in my education and resources in order to better understand God, the Christian faith and my world. So much of my participation in the evangelical world was based on the assumption that others in this movement had similar values.
In the last few years I’ve come to realize, that just isn’t true. It is a really, really difficult realization to come to.
While I readily acknowledge there are lots of people who do deeply care about biblical values and just interpret the bible differently…with those types of people I love to engage, discuss and debate and learn things from.
I think the heart of Christianity is Christ, but following Jesus requires the following:
A fearless devotion to the truth
Following Jesus required people put their ingrained knowledge and values to side to fully consider what he was saying. When Jesus told everyone they would have to eat his body and drink his blood only those fearlessly devoted to following the truth at any cost continued to follow him.
The human mind can only handle so much connection, so when we hit a certain point we simplify things by interpreting people through stereotypes or other models. Some of these types and models are developed in community. We tend absorb our perspective from our community. When the assumptions and expectations of that community become the dominant lens by which truth and situations are judged regardless of evidence that is tribalism.
What has frustrated me is that when an issue comes along that calls for a fearless devotion to the truth or unselfish love I see evangelicals holding fast to the tribal value rather than reconsidering things from a biblical perspective. In fact, evangelicals assume their tribal values are biblical values. In that we are not so different from the religious leaders of Jesus day who persecuted him.
I’ll give you an example: assisted dying. There are some who work in the field of social work or health care that actively affirm the biblical value of the sanctity of all life. I don’t begrudge these fine people as they attempt to shape the laws and policies of our governments. Assisted dying at this point only impacts people who are so incapacitated that they can’t end their own life. These people are generally older, are suffering from a chronic or terminal condition and are therefore a relatively small contingent of people. There is a much larger contingent of people who commit suicide because they have lost hope, are mired with addictions or are afflicted with mental illness. The church has very little leverage to shape the outcome of the legal changes forced by the supreme court of Canada. We could make a huge difference by advocating for social justice for the vulnerable sectors of society with high rates of suicide. We could help fund addictions and mental health programs. Aside from 12 step programs evangelicals don’t do much on this front.
The reason is we don’t really care about people. We just get upset when people violate the rules of our tribe.