Sunday, February 14, 2016

being christian, being evangelical

Denzel (Washington) made me do it. The other night he pushed me over the edge. Here I sit, still recovering from the Fast & Furious family saying grace around the table at the end of a movie of excessive violence, destruction and abuse, and now ... there sits Denzel. Struggling with alcoholism, there is this touching scene where Denzel puts back the bottle and reaches for the Bible in which he finds the strength to resist. He does resist and he does find strength ... so that he can go out and assassinate numerous people that he doesn't like.

The rest of the world is watching this stuff. Multiple channels are given over to it in some pretty remote places. More people than we'd care to admit work with a simple equation: Christianity = America = Hollywood. It hardly seems fair, or reasonable - but it is still true, especially among those who are viewed as an enemy of some kind. Indirectly, Hollywood shapes how people view Christianity. So it is a faith that gets attached easily to extremist violence, repetitive profanity, and illicit sex. Is it that hard to understand people willing to sacrifice their lives to stem the tide of this junk flowing into the lives of their own kin? When the decibels become shrill about protecting freedom and the American way of life - multitudes simply assume that it is the Hollywood way of life that is to be protected because it is the only slice of America that they know.

I wince. As I do so, my heart goes out to authentic Christians in America who must be weary of wincing.

But it gets worse, much worse. On the news last night the focus was South Carolina as the next stop in the American election process. The counties of Carolina were being coloured in various ways as the chances of candidates in the various (apparently) mutually exclusive demographics were analyzed with a tap of the finger on that fancy board of theirs - like the 'African-American' one and then the 'evangelical' one.

"Excuse me? Are you inferring that there are no African-Americans in the evangelical constituency? Yes, you are. Let me tell you something that is kinda obvious, even from here in Bangalore. There are probably more evangelicals in that African-American constituency than there are in your so-called evangelical one. Since when did 'evangelical' become the exclusive domain of the ultra-conservative? On behalf of the global evangelical community, how dare you take our word, our identity, and drag it through such mud. Most of your so-called evangelicals are fundamentalists and some among them are people you tend to name, in other faiths, as extremists. Please realise the damage you are doing to the mission of God around the world, even as you think you are advancing His cause around your own country. You aren't."

Here is the sad irony. These so-called evangelicals place their hope in a nation with wealth and power and might. They are scrapping over who among them will do this the most effectively. Haven't we walked this way before? Remember the Old Testament? See - genuine evangelicals base their life in the total Biblical story and focus their life totally on Christ. When this is done, even the most juvenile evangelical knows that hope does not lie in a nation targeting wealth and power and might. Hope lies with intriguing communities of faith subverting the hope placed in this wealth and power and might - and doing so with such grace and wisdom and courage and love and godliness and simplicity and humility that they experience the power of the Spirit transforming themselves and the worlds in which they live.

I wince. Nah. That is not true. I don't wince. I get angry. I confess it. I have an anger problem. As I do so, my heart goes out to authentic evangelicals in America who must be weary of being angry.

nice chatting

Paul

PS: A little later... As the the Republican candidates scrap over who is the best evangelical, maybe they should be silent and listen to this - because here is what an evangelical Christian sounds like - and he is an African-American as well (!), the very point I am making above.



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