Let’s just admit it in the United States right now I have never seen the protestant church more divided since the civil rights movements; which by the way is still going on. I rack my brain on over how we the church of all different flavors can come together regardless of interpretation of scripture, human rules, and dogma in which we place upon ourselves. We cling so hard to these beliefs that we would rather start a civil war than find a way to live in brotherly love with one another. So is it possible to possess a singularity within Christianity? The short easy answer is yes, we already have a singularity; we have Jesus! Yet your Jesus may not be my Jesus, and who is to say which one is right? We could look to the Bible for an answer but through our methods and biases in conducting hermeneutics of scripture meanings change to fit the desire we wish. So let’s face it, a singularity in Christianity is a tall order! Yet it is one we need to at least try to attain. First let me say that this is just a short article to help you expand you mind, this subject could easily be used to write a Ph.D. dissertation which I may consider in the future.
Why are we so divided?
I am not going to do a complete history on the division of the protestant church instead I will look at some issues that divide the church today. This can be a very touchy subject. People become very offended if something within their belief system is questioned. Yet one of my mottos is question everything! First, we are divided by denominations, I have a love hate relationship with denominations. While I believe that denominations certainly have their place they also cause an obvious division. Dozens of Pentecostal/charismatic denominations, mainline denominations as well as small and obscure denominations which all believe they know the will of God. Let us not forget the thousands of non-denominational churches which each hold to their own belief system. I for one love worshiping God in different denominations. I have very few fundamentals within my Christianity so I could be attending a United Church of Christ, Methodist, or many of the flavors of Pentecostalism which I am very fond of, worship God, fellowship with his people, and enjoy the diversity of my brothers and sisters.
With denominations aside let us look at a few other major areas which divide us as a church. LGBT inclusion, refugees, American nationalism, also the obsession with rules based on scriptural interpretation which enter the very core of the adherents; especially anything to do with sex. Their simply seems no room for the old saying “I will have to agree to disagree.” As you know these create the left and right, liberal or conservative world in which we live. Usually those with strict fundamental rules are rightwing conservatives and the “agree to disagree people” are the ones on the left. I do not necessarily claim a side, I do not have all the answers. Nobody does! Why do we need such labels? I for one would be considered a liberal Christian yet I would rather be called a Jesus follower. Then again many think I am a heretic! The thing is what do we really know? Fact is we know very little, trying to package our religion into an all-encompassing system which affects every area of our lives will assuredly lead to conflict. While I may offend some as a Christian preacher I must address what I believe causes the biggest division of all. That is fundamentalism, I am not talking about the basic definition of fundamentalism, that being the virgin birth of Christ, His life, death, and resurrection. In fact those are probably the only fundamentals I will say are absolutely true in faith. I am talking about divisions created based on denominational beliefs about everything from baptism, speaking in tongues, prophecy, psychology, tithing, the inerrancy of scripture and its different variations thereof, the list can go on to eternity. I have seen heated debates over whether a person would go to hell if they were not baptized even if they were a confessing Christian. I thought it was silly but the other guy was dead set on his beliefs. Where did he get them? He was taught them probably from the start of his Christian journey and anything else would be apostasy. Hey I once was a very conservative fundamentalist Christian but then I went to seminary and I learned much about scripture and Jesus that I was never taught in church. I admit I do like to have a good argument but I certainly do not wish to divide a nation. That is what is going on right now, a divided nation over variations of religious beliefs.
Four Major areas of debate amongst Christians
A major issue within the protestant church is LGBT inclusion. As a former fundamentalist I was trained to believe that homosexuality is a sin, along with many other things in a church world obsessed with sex. I find it very interesting that Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality, it is not that he did not know people who were homosexual yet he never mentions it. Jesus does mention sexual immorality, the question is how is sexual immorality defined? Rape, pedophilia, prostitution, these are a few areas of sexual immorality I can think of that the scriptures touch on. Maybe we focus so much on sex because we in fact were created for sex? “Multiply and fill the earth” sex is normal behavior between committed couples. Ellen Page star of the series Gaycation really made it very clear in a world of hate towards the LGBT community she states “Why would anyone choose to be this way?” Well they do not choose, people are born with their orientation. As a Christian I am a believer in ensoulment, I believe that it is very likely that the brain which acts as the antenna for our soul may not be wired to attract the same sex. In fact souls with male orientation may have been placed within a female body and vice versa. I do not want to spend much more time on this issue due to the fact that it could stretch in length more than I wish to write. I do not know all the answers but I do know that this division over sex must be put to an end if we are to see healing and an eventual singularity.
In the news today there is a huge debate over refugees and illegals in the United States, we have just sworn in a new President who is desperate to wall us in and keep others out. Refugees have always been close to the heart of God. There is a vast amount of scriptures that supports the acceptance of refugees in fact the family of Jesus was forced to leave their homeland for Egypt to escape certain death. I have written an article in the past called “No Borders in Paradise” which I encourage you to read. Fact is it is hard to be a Christian if we only use the foreigner for financial gain yet keep them from safety in a time of need. Our country is filled with large overpriced church buildings which could hold millions of foreigners, members of the churches own businesses which could employ these refugees to earn their keep. This country is for everyone, it’s very foundation was established on the freedom of all people and to welcome all people with open arms. Just as Jesus welcomes all we should as followers have our arms opened as well.
As stated above we have a new President who is an American nationalist. His voters are nationalist and a great majority are of the evangelical persuasion. As if this plot of land is more special than any others. I admit I am a globalist, guess what, so is God! American nationalism is causing some of the greatest division within the country and church. We hold to our guns and flags greater than our Bibles and faith. We believe we are superior because of our citizenship and dangle it in front of the faces of the world when they are in need. Yes it is okay to be proud Americans but as the old Sunday school song goes “I am in the Lords Army.” Not the American Army or any other “country” but an Army of Christian soldiers who’s weapons are created from faith and prayer. If we can learn to control are egos, to let go of this idea that America is somehow more special than any other country on earth, to learn to look at the country through the eyes of foreigners we might just decrease some of the division within the church.
Finally I will just briefly touch on the amount of rules each denomination possesses, which probably surpasses the 613 Jewish laws found in the Old Testament. Most rules are based on the interpretation of the New Testament text. For me personally I have found that no rules, no dogma, just Spirit led Christianity is better. There are rules, but no rules when it comes to fellowship as confessing Christians. As I have said many times “we do not know.” We argue and point fingers over logs in our eyes while many of those outside of the church only have splinters. This is not a new phenomenon all you have to do is read the book of Acts to see the division in the church. Yet since the foundation of the church we have had the answer we have had the singularity but we allowed our flesh to get in the way. Remember the “Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
Into Apostasy and the end of the know it all
So let us just embrace apostasy! Wait, what did I just say? Embrace apostasy! Yes the only way to get back to the singularity which can bring all flavors of Christianity back together is to become an apostate. So many pastors do not pastor they command their flock, they teach a message of “this is how it is or else.” Instead of questioning everything we follow like sheep. The blind leading the blind. In my future church plant the only dogma which will be shared is that of confession, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. The belief of the virgin birth, the human/divine nature of Christ his death resurrection and coming return. While that alone can create a lot of debate I believe that these are the basic dogmas of the protestant Christian church. So, let us question everything and learn from one another. “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.”
So has I have mentioned throughout this article that Jesus is our singularity. Synonymous with Jesus is love. The apostle Paul gives the church in Corinth a wonderfully detailed definition of love. This is found in the New Testament text 1 Corinthians 13. I am not going to copy and paste the text, look it up and read it but here is the verbs that create the verb love. Patient, kindness, modest, humble, does not take advantage of others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, never delighting in evil, always rejoices with truth, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering, it never fails! This is the definition of love. Okay so let us put the word God or Jesus before each one of these characteristics of love. Now let us put your name before each one of these definitions of love. The difficult part is can we live out love? No we cannot fully live out love, by God’s grace we can do the best we can. Yet we do not even do that. We struggle and fight within ourselves leaving us look like fools to those outside of the church. Our division will never bring more to Christ. The singularity of Christianity is love, but are we humble enough?
Can we be humble enough to be like Jesus?
Only by the grace of God can we actually follow in the footsteps of Jesus. It is only when we decide to let go of our ego, that is forget or at least minimize our predisposed ideas about theology, to throw away the idea that the only type of theology is one in which you were born into, found God in, or what the preachers preach on Sunday! Fellow preachers, church leaders, pastors, and priest be ready to do the same thing. We need to open up a dialogue and broaden our horizons working with each other to bring about Christ within the church. This is not easy, I came to this level of consciousness by observation the politics and arrogance of many of my brothers and sisters whom I love yet allowed me to think about my theological practice. Is this really what it is all about? Is everything absolute? What is truth? What is it that makes us so fundamental to the traditions of our various faith traditions? Many would say basic human programming and fear. Well maybe we need to deconstruct ourselves and leave our fear in the past for to fear is to sin. I honestly do not know if we can come to this singularity here on earth. I do know that prophecy tells us that we will come to this in heaven. Then I can hear it now, “well that is for heaven we must live on earth.” Yes we must live on earth, but we do not have to live like earth when the Kingdom of Heaven is within! I want to continue to write about this subject but I think that you must have the point after over 2000 words. With that I hope that this inspires you to be a person that desires to see the singularity alive and well in the church, to stop the division and bring healing to this land! Amen!