Are You Really, Really Sure You Are Not Homophobic?

Sorry to bring this up again, but I read this story today on Crosswalk.com and my jaw hit the floor: New Mexico Court: Christian Conscience Discriminates Against Gays. Despite the incredibly misleading title, the article is really about a wedding photographer who refused to go to be hired by a gay client because it violated her “belief in the biblical definition of marriage.” Get this kicker from someone that is actually a lawyer: “America was founded on the fundamental freedom of every citizen to live and work according to their beliefs.” So a white supremacist restaurant-owner is free to not serve non-whites because of their beliefs?

Last I heard, they weren’t handing out law degrees in cracker jack boxes. But how did Jordan Lorence become a lawyer otherwise?

Why does it seem like every conservative Christian in the world has forgotten I Corinthians 5:9-10 in this day and age? “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” Even if you consider homosexuality to be immoral, it is right there as plain as day in the Bible. You still associate with gays. You still do business with them. You still interact with them in the way you would with anyone else you consider a “sinner.”

Sheesh.

I am sorry for the frustration in this post, but I get hammered a lot for suggesting that Christians are homophobic. How else would you describe this? There is NOTHING in the Bible that tells you not to refuse business because of your definition of marriage. And any artist knows that once you get paid for your services it is no longer about your expression. You are hired to “express” someone else.

I mean, again – who gave Jordan Lorence a degree in law?

Sorry, I am just floored obviously. Look – how many weddings out there are between people that blatantly flaunt their pre-marital sex? How many weddings are for people that got divorced and are re-marrying and adultery never played a role? How many weddings serve so much alcohol that half the people there get wasted – and they announce this from the moment they start inviting people? Are these photographers going to really contend that there wasn’t one single wedding that involved other blatant “sins” in their eyes?

No. Way.

This was a politically motivated case of fear and/or hatred – straight up. They didn’t get their way in the gay marriage fight so they are taking it out on customers who don’t sin in ways they are complacent with.

metamodern-faith-avatarThis is why the Church is dying (conservative and liberal churches alike are losing members fast if you do the math – ever notice that the loss of church members from liberal denominations only accounts for a little over half of the overall loss in America?). There is no war on the Church in America. We are hypocrites who won’t fight the war against hypocrisy in our own midst, so God is using the world around us to force that war on us. Church, please wake up.

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Confessions of a Metamodernist Christian

I remember one day in college that changed my perspective on church forever. I was standing in a Christian bookstore talking to an acquaintance when the conversation veered on to what was wrong with the Church in America. Not a hate-fest per se, just a “man, we wish things could change and grow and allow for imperfections a lot more.” The guy then started describing a church that he was starting that would be different. He went on to try and recruit me to his leadership team for this church.

He talked a lot about doing things differently, but it didn’t feel right to me. As he went on, I began to realize that while he was presenting himself as an out-of-the-box thinker, that wasn’t really true. He had moved his box to an unorthodox position, but he was still very much stuck in that box. Which is not necessarily bad – true out-of-the-box thinkers can be very annoying to be around. But thinking you are one when you really aren’t? More than a little awkward.

I think that has been my experience with the emerging church. They all move their boxes to new or different places, but still want to stay firmly in that box. Which, again, is not necessarily wrong – boxes give us social norms to understand and utilize in many ways. But it is awkward to watch an emerging Christian criticize a fundamentalist for their unhealthy focus on literal interpretations of certain scriptures and then turn around and get mad at you for bringing in a completely different take that is neither fundamentalist or emerging. Its kind of like the cool kid that thinks he is cool because he thought he was avante-guard and then he runs into a true avante-guard person and get flustered at being exposed for not really being that avante-guard. Wasn’t that the plot of a sitcom or two in the 80s?

Anyways, for a long time now, I have known that I don’t really fit in with traditional churches or emerging churches. Probably because they are two sides of the same coin – one modern, and the other post-modern. Post-modernism replaced modernism, and then died itself a while back. I probably was post-modern back when it was alive and well, but the growing dissatisfaction I had with the emerging church was an indication that I was distancing myself from a dying philosophy. So lately I have been trying to figure out exactly what I am. Help has come from Wikipedia of all places.

Of course, you never would have heard me call myself a “post-modern Christian.” People argue all the time over what post-modern is anyways, and it seems there is little general agreement out there. Basically, I think most people use it to either mean “cool” or “heretic.” Note this quote from Wikipedia: “Despite the name some people eschew the label ‘postmodern Christianity’ because the meaning of the term ‘postmodern’ is frequently debated, even between those who use the label. Therefore some say it has almost no determinate meaning and, in the United States, serves largely to symbolize an emotionally charged battle of ideologies.”

But anyway, I know that for most of my life, I have had a trouble really identify as either modern or post-modern. Post-modernism has added some great ideas to Christianity. Existential Christianity has some interesting thoughts on the authority of the Bible, for instance: “An existential reading of the Bible demands that the reader recognize that he is an existing subject, studying the words that God communicates to him personally. This is in contrast to looking at a collection of ‘truths’ which are outside and unrelated to the reader. Such a reader is not obligated to follow the commandments as if an external agent is forcing them upon him, but as though they are inside him and guiding him internally…. Existentially speaking, the Bible doesn’t become an authority in a person’s life until they authorize the Bible to be their personal authority.” In other words… free will.

But of course, post-modernism has that whole “no absolute truth” thing that is disturbing to me as a spiritual person and a scientist. So there is that. But you also can’t run to modernism, where everything has to be proven scientifically. Science is completely valid, but any good scientist will tell you that it is an incomplete picture of reality.

Deconstruction is also another post-modern concept that I love (and often get in trouble for): “The notion of a ‘deconstructive’ approach implies an analysis that questions the already evident deconstruction of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference. A deconstructive approach further depends on the techniques of close reading without reference to cultural, ideological, moral opinions or information derived from an authority over the text such as the author.” So we have to look at an idea apart from influences to see what it really says. Good at times, but there are times where cultural influence and other issues are important to examine.

But like I have stated, there are many things about post-modernism that I don’t like (and many post-modernists would probably agree with me, since they apparently argue a lot with each other and never really come to consensus on what they really are anyways). And apparently post-modernism began to die in the 1990s and finally kicked the bucket sometime in the last decade or so. So what is a recovering semi-post-modernist to do?

Some have created a movement called post-post modernism… but it makes much less sense than post-modernism. Is it a back to modernism movement? Is it extreme post-modernism? In my opinion, a better term is metamodernism: “Van den Akker and Vermeulen define metamodernism as a continuous oscillation, a constant repositioning between positions and mindsets that are evocative of the modern and of the postmodern but are ultimately suggestive of another sensibility that is neither of them: one that negotiates between a yearning for universal truths on the one hand and an (a)political relativism on the other, between hope and doubt, sincerity and irony, knowingness and naivety, construction and deconstruction.”

Wow. You know what, that has been me all along. I have been torn between being drawn to the good in both modernism and post-modernism while being repulsed by the problems in both. I don’t like black and white extremism. I like grays and ambiguous spaces where many ideas interact and a lot of faith is needed because things are less certain and easy.

So, I guess this is me, confessing to being a metamodernist Christian and not really knowing what all that means.

I recently discovered an article by John Hundley called “Modern, Postmodern and Metamodern: How should we then teach?” It is a little lengthy for an average blog post, but I think it discusses many issues that I have been wrestling with while making a case for a metamoderist approach to education in a secularist university system. Oh, and Hundley just so happens to be a Christian. Take this paragraph for example: “The secular metamodern philosophy of history holds tightly to the idea that all thinking individuals have preconceived ideas and worldviews and opinions, and that these color everything they do, including science.  Metamodern historians are not saying—as the postmoderns did—that there is no objective truth.  What they are saying is that there is no way to scientifically prove that objective truth in the writings of the ancient past.  It all gets colored by our perceptions, which are, in turn, colored by our preconceived ideas about the way the world works.  These ideas are, problematically, very different from the preconceived ideas of the ancients.”

Like any other philosophy, there are many disagreements on what metamodern means, and just like in post-modernism, you don’t have to follow everyone else’s definition to still be a part. If modernism and post-modernism are black and white opposites, metamodernism is the area in between that looks gray at first, but turns out to be a swirl of the best of the blacks and whites. You don’t have to give up your black or white leanings (or your personal mixture of both) to be in the mix – you just have to realize how they all have equal ground on the global stage.

metamodern-faith-avatarEver wonder how many Church culture wars could be avoided if churches took this approach to heart? Maybe the ultra-fundamentalist complementarian right-wingers would give us egalitarians a bit of a break?

Yeah, that might be a bit of a pipe-dream, but you never know.

Strangling the Church To Death

It always starts out innocent enough. A friend posts a good question on Facebook – someone that you know is looking for an honest, calm answer. You decide to give your view on it, you get a few likes, and all seems to be good. Because you were nice and encouraging about it, you think it is a win/win situation, even though you might have discussed a very divisive issue.

But then, that person reads your comments and decides you are a ____ (fill in the blank with any number of unkind descriptors) for “butchering” the Bible.

You try to calmly describe your thoughts, but get met with a barrage of random scriptures… what about this one? How could this one mean that? This one clearly says you are wrong.

Oh, how I hate that word: clearly. It was a perfectly cool word until the Church weaponized it.

You try to explain that you are just attempting to be open about what the Bible says and what it really doesn’t say. You don’t want to give the impression that the Bible says something that it really doesn’t. You are trying to have the utmost respect for what the Good Book actually says.

But that doesn’t seem to mean anything. You have said the wrong thing. You have not validated their opinion on what the Bible is really saying. No matter how you try to explain your position. Because the crazy thing is that you both actually agree on the overall principle. But you just don’t want to demonize people that have a different interpretation of scripture. You know enough about the ambiguities of some scriptures to know that both sides have valid interpretations. You don’t think someone is just “being ridiculous” because they don’t see it your way.

Because ultimately, that is where you are going wrong in their eyes. You allow for other valid interpretations. You allow for gray areas. You allow for things that aren’t so easy to explain. You embrace mystery and faith.

But, really – what good is faith if everything is already so clear?

Those loud, arrogant voices are slowly strangling the church to death. They are destroying faith and mystery and hope. Because, yeah, people also don’t really need hope if everything is clear. Hope is ultimately resolved when someone get an answer, and that is good when it happens. But people never have to rely on hope if they already have the answer. They have already peeked inside the wrapped present that is hope – at least, in their own mind. That “peek” means that it is no longer hope, at least in reality.

And when the present is finally opened and they find out their early “peek” was imaginary all along? Whoa, boy…

So I get it when you just want to give up and not do the church thing anymore. I wish I could give you some words of encouragement to see past the imperfections. Yeah, I know we are all imperfect and so we shouldn’t judge. But dang it – some imperfections are harder to be around than others.

metamodern-faith-avatarAnd to be honest, most days I just want to give a big middle finger to the whole deal and go hang out with others that are like me. Those that get God (somewhat), that get what it means to hang with others that (somewhat) get God, but that don’t get what this strange strangled beast we falsely call the “church” (traditional, emerging, or otherwise) is all about. I feel more like the Bride of Christ when I hang with those that are more on the mysterious gray side.