Christians Are Just So Darned Sensitive, Or How Did The Jews And Gentiles Do It, Man?

note: I recently played comment catch up, I’m not online much so I’m not very good at responding in a timely manner.
I suppose you could be really deep as you slowly lift your steaming mug of tea and say “No one is ever truly honest.” However, there are at times on this blog I’ve wanted to share more of myself and my beliefs/opinions/ideas – but I relented. I didn’t share not because of deep psychological reasons subconsciously holding me back…

I relented because Christians can be some of the most touchy people on the planet. I think our reputation is that we’re the most easily offended and outraged group of people in America. (Yes, I’m painting with a broad brush, but I’m certainly not implying all Christians. And  don’t worry, I’m not referencing any of my readers, this isn’t a back-handed passive aggressive tirade.)

But really, there are some issues I’d like to discuss on the blog – but I worry. You see, it seems that all it takes is speculating one doctrine, disagreeing with one political notion or throwing around a controversial idea and you’re cut off. I feel like I have to be really sensitive in Christian circles to not step on any toes, and to walk the party line – never offending anybody. You step on that invisible line and the huge security system goes off and you’re surrounded by the church SWAT Team.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you may now I’m a more progressively leaning Christian – but I don’t express that much in my local church. You never know when you’ll push that one button. One wrong move and you’re out – they’ll pounce and chew you up before throwing you under the next bus that comes by. Yesterday at the very end of my post I referenced some emergent thinkers, and for some that alone would kick me out of their camp, even their figurative family of believers.

Of course we all acknowledge that this violates the very essence of what followers of Jesus are to be – grace filled people. It’s crazy how far we’ve gotten from this. But ultimately I’m sometimes guilty of this sin: “Oh, he’s one of those….”

Here’s the thing: when I survey the churches I’ve been in the last few years, though we all hold individual beliefs and ideas – we’re pretty darn similar. And yet somehow Jews and Gentiles were able to stand one another and their enormous differences, and merge into one family – one body, even.

Tip toeing around churches, afraid to rustle feathers or make creeky noises.

When we skim over geographical names in the New Testament letters, we’re not aware of the monumental cultural differences the first Christians were overcoming in calling each other brother and sister.

So, rather than making this post simply a rant about particular, picky Christians – I’ll conclude by committing to not shut down when I encounter those people (for me, its probably fundamentalists, for fundamentalists its probably me). Feel free to join me in the comments section in your own commitment (no, this is not the first Charlie’s Church of Christ alter call looking for commitments – you don’t have to raise your hand on come down front).

So, do you share my fear of being real among Christians? Do you sense that same witch-hunt atmosphere? What can we do to change it?

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14 Responses to Christians Are Just So Darned Sensitive, Or How Did The Jews And Gentiles Do It, Man?

  1. David says:

    One of things I have worked hard on is to visit lots of churches, and read lots of books. I have a lot of grace for folks that are searching – God knows I did that. What I have a problem with is folks who refuse to read the Bible, and refuse to engage in at least a conversation about that which is considered biblical truth. One survey says that about 80% of Americans prefer their own thoughts and feelings and trust them more than the written word of God.

    I don’t have grace for that. I am not saying we all have to agree on every little detail, but chopping out parts of the word because we don’t like, or don’t see it as relevant, is folly.

    And lastly, the witch hunters often have opinions about churches and movements they have never seen first hand. Talk about intolerant. I say go to a meeting with your least favorite and get a first hand look.

    I do have a bottom line. I ask that question: “do you hear directly from God?” (You know, the sheep know His voice stuff.) If the answer is “no,” I know they have not searched deep enough. If they don’t want to, then I am generally done. I want to invest in folks that really want to know God. I lost patience with religion a very long time ago.

    • your comment on the witch hunts is so super true. In fact I’ve been formulating a post on that in my mind – about how we often give others advice as if we perfectly understand their situation (even though we know only skeleton-like details) and know the obvious course of action. Standing outside of it we feel very easily justified in judging and condemning. I know you’ve seen this entirely too much when it comes to the more Pentecostal/speaking in tongues/supernatural/healings/God-speaking/I don’t know what call it side of Christianity.

      • David says:

        I have – but trust me, there was a point when I had to stop judging with the natural (outward), obey the scriptures and press God for real answers. I went to lots of different meetings, and some of those guys I won’t go back to. But I went, checked it out. In the process I learned to hear the voice of God for myself – which is the KEY!

        Keep searching Charlie.

  2. jay @ bethegospel says:

    Yeah, I get scared sometimes even when i know I am with a good friend who won’t throw me out with the bathwater. I was real nervous to write this post on my other blog http://blueconfessions.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/a-confession-ive-been-scared-to-write/ because I knew it would strike a chord with some even though I am just being honest with where I am at.

    btw, I have a McLaren book that is on my list to read this year. No worries, you didn’t actually lose a reader as this comment proves. 🙂

  3. Chris says:

    “And yet somehow Jews and Gentiles were able to stand one another and their enormous differences, and merge into one family – one body, even.”

    Hey Charlie,
    How do you know they were able to stand one another? Maybe lots of them got sick of each other and up and left. We only know that enough of them stayed together to keep the movement going. Given human nature I feel certain that there were tons of disagreement among early Christians. History actually demonstrates this. I think your over-romanticizing of the early church may be doing you a disservice.
    You seem to be confusing two issues. One, do we (did they) tolerate each other despite cultural differences? I think we do/should, and I think they did. Two, do we (did they) tolerate each other despite theological or doctrinal differences? I think many broke fellowship then because of those differences and we know that many do so now.
    This is the tricky question. If reading Brian McLaren gets you jumped on in church maybe you should not be in that church. If you are just trying to feel your way along and get a better handle on your convictions and why you have them and are simply asking honest questions, that should be encouraged.
    But when you go from questioning to promotion and advocacy you now have a problem and you have to be prepared for battle because doctrinal matters, as arid and sterile as they can seem, do matter. It’s unavoidable. And when I say “battle” I only mean it in the sense of respectful, honest disagreement. Spirited and seasoned disagreement is not a bad thing and can in fact be a reflection of love. Mean-spiritedness and unkindness we can do without. There is never an excuse to be unkind or uncharitable. But charity also should not have to be devoid of either truth or conviction.

    BTW, I’ve only read some articles and heard some podcasts from McLaren, but I have read Tony Jones, Phyllis Tickle, Peter Rollins, Diana Butler-Bass, Donald Miller, and some others. And I have one very emergent friend, and we disagree quite a lot, but we like each other all the same. So I guess I know a little about the ECM.

    One suggestion. I’ve heard it said that for every new book you read, you should read two old ones. I’ve found this to be good advice. In this way you get a better, broader sense, or picture of what the church has really been about through the centuries, and you won’t be as taken by fads or the latest guru that will “save” the church. Remember, all news is old news happening to new people. 😉

    • I agree I probably romanticize the early church – though I do think there was something special about that time and the energy that was in the air. They of course, still got plenty quite wrong.

      I also agree that doctrine does matter – but I think overall there are way too many battles where people truly are sweating the small stuff, and as people become self-appointed experts in it they feel the need to split hairs and analyze everything. I could probably have elaborated on that a little more so it doesn’t make it sound like I’m saying “stop freaking out over lots of different doctrine.” (I can always fine tune my posts AFTER they’re published because people point out what needs clarity).

      I like the idea of reading some older books, sometimes I find them easy to read and others immensely difficult – but I do like the suggestion.

      (oh and by read old you mean 10+ years right 😉 )

      • Chris says:

        Ouch! The cub can bite! 😉

      • David says:

        I am confused, what is that we are trying to learn/solve/understand by reading a specific genre of books?

        The journey is to know God, not just be educated. Personally I am very bored with how-to Christian books. I have read hundreds of Christian books – I used to review them for a Christian book store.

        I am looking for the ones that change me, and cause me to know God better. I have read Paul Tillic, NT Wright and some of the heavy hitters. I even read Luther and Calvin…. I count it all as loss.

        God has seasons in his church. (You can check out my latest Fire and Grace blog for a detailed example.) The point is this: God is not ALWAYS doing the same thing that worked 10 years ago, or 100, or 2,000. If he did, we have one denomination! He doesn’t change, but his methods sometimes do. Although the core needs of human kind don’t change, their cultrual real life needs do.

        We have new technology that can be used to further the Kingdom. God can and will use it. And God is not looking for ideas from us – not even close.

        That is why the early church model without buildings doesn’t always work. Small groups don’t always lend themselves to intimacy, and outlined discipleship programs don’t always cause believers to walk more deeply with God. Some thrive in mega-churches, and others feel very lonely there.

        If you want to read good book, find ones that make you so hungry for God that you do whatever they propose. Find ones that build your faith to do more for God, not your knowledge. Find ones that are testimonies of how God worked for someone else…

        Please, let’s quit making this an exercise in logic.

  4. Chris says:

    @ David,

    I agree we want reading that will help us to grow in our walk with God and that will prompt us to action. Unfortunately there isn’t an isle at the bookstore with the label “Books That Make You So Hungry For God That You Will Do Whatever The Author Proposes.” But I’m not even sure I’d want to read a book like that anyway. Not because I don’t want to be hungry for God, but because there is a lot of snake-oil out there.
    Personally, I read for many objectives. To grow in my faith. To stay informed. To be inspired. To grow in discernment. To better communicate my thoughts and desire to share Christ. And also just for fun.
    Fun is okay, isn’t it?
    You seem frustrated and I’m not really sure how you concluded that anyone was making this conversation an exercise in logic. And besides, is logic a bad thing? I actually think an introductory course in logic would probably do a lot of people a lot of good. When someone asks the question “what is it that we are trying to learn/solve/understand by reading a specific genre of books?” should I give a logical response, or would it be better if my response were illogical?

    You stated:
    “Find ones that build your faith to do more for God, not your knowledge.”
    But I think adding to our knowledge of things like culture, religion, philosophy, history, etc., does help build faith to do more for God. Consider this from Proverbs 18:15
    “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.”

    I don’t pull out this verse to proof-text in any sense, but only to suggest that although God does want believers and followers and doers, he doesn’t necessarily want uneducated ones. To be clear, great faith does require a college education. Not at all. But a good, broad education combined with a dose of spiritual discernment can be very beneficial, and of service to God. Remember, God has spoken to you and called you in certain ways, but he may not speak in exactly that same way to me or to everyone else.

    • Chris says:

      I meant “great faith does NOT require a college education” Hope you got that.

    • David says:

      I love to read. I read for fun, for information, and I love to learn stuff. I have 9 years of higher education, degrees, diplomas and certificates; I count it all loss. Sure, it helps me understand cultures, trends, society and the like. I am not against learning or education.

      However, if I look at the books that really impacted me and caused me to know God better or helped me to overcome some character flaw, there are truly few. I find that Americans know a lot of Christian stuff. We have books, blogs, radio, TV, and whatever our local church is doing. Again, which ones build our faith and remove doubt? Which will cause us to drop everything to care for another human outside our family? Which ones cause us to love our enemies? Which ones truly cause us to go deeper with God? Which ones inspire us to pray for the sick or desire spiritual gifts? Few.

      It can’t be firing round after round of Bible verses across denominational borders. There has to be a real connect with God. Spiritual discernment is a spiritual gift, not simply education. There are wolves in every church, uncommitted with wrong motives, doing the right things. It is hard to tell if there is wax fruit or not.

      Ephesians 4 talks about unity. So many think that we all need to get along. That is not what it means. It means unity in the Spirit. Until we are all hearing the same God, not deducing His will from some enticing exegesis of the word, it is not going to happen. God has one will. And the sheep are supposed to know his voice.

      For me it all comes back to faith. What do I actually have faith in the Jesus will do? Heal a cold, provide perfect wisdom about a marriage or a job, or raise someone from the dead? In the American church, this type of Jesus is not the norm.

      Without faith we cannot please God. (Heb 11:6) What about Mark 16:17-18? Those are things that we need faith for. The Kingdom of God is power, not talk.

      So, I agree, education is good. I agree that my calling is different from yours. Church; however, is not just teaching and worship, it is loving each with both our gifts of service and the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Without power Christianity becomes another religious philosophy that will debated for many more centuries; if we last that long. (1 Cor 2:1-5; 1 Cor 4:20. John 4:48)

      In the end, if reading Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life or something similar could really change things, millions in the church would have been transformed already.

      Thanks for responding Chris. I appreciate your sincerity. You sound very pastoral.

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