The Temptation to Stand for Nothing

“the temptation to stand for nothing”

America is full of uber-evangelical-legalistic-rightwinged Christians that I along with my many post-evangelical colleagues have tried to forge a “third way” so to speak. What I mean is that I can be a ‘Christian’ (I am using the term loosely here) that is either a)an evangelical that is influenced by fundamentalism (which in my book equal to legalistic and judgmental) or an evangelical that is more nominal in approach – they aren’t judgmental and ‘focus on grace’ but all that really means is they don’t want to be bothered. The second option is b) I can be a liberal that is either influenced by schleiermacher (sp?) type, expressivist Christianity where what feels right is reliable or the liberal type that is more fundamentalist (they wouldn’t use this category) and pushes experience to its bitter end – i.e. there is no overarching metanarrative (no general guidelines for all people) and is extremely individualistic to the point off accepting a Unitarian universalist or ‘new age’ type spirituality where everything goes. Basically this crude paradigm worked (that is it was accepted as the way it should be) until the last 30-40 years. Some Christians have been scandalized by these two options a) its my way or the highway or b) everything goes.

this third way is nothing other than trying to figure out how to follow and embody Jesus Christ. Jesus didn’t condone sinners nor did he condemn them, he lived with them, loved them and tried to show them another way, a better way, THE way. This is a scandalizing thought, to both conservatives and liberals. but think back the only people that were ever condemned where in parables, so as to make principles to live by. secondly we all know Jesus didn’t have a great relationship with the pharisees, but what was it that he didn’t like about them; they either fit nicely into the ‘people who condemn (their support of Jesus’ own death)’ category or they fit into the ‘people who condone (think of Jesus’ being bought off by Judas).’ Therefore it seems to me that Jesus tried to live inbetween both categories. But there is one catch – he was often times mistaken and totally misunderstood. he was regarded as a heretic, a zealot, one who had no morals and was full of demons, people just didn’t get him.

this is the trouble we run into today – it is the temptation to appear as though we stand for nothing because we don’t regularly judge and condem, in our silence we are seen as condoning. But this the way of the savior, this is the way of the crucified Lord, he held these things in tension, and only he can help us to understand how we can do the same. So it is not that I stand for nothing, or that I define the only way to heaven (as our fundamentalist friends like to think). It is the case that I stand for more than you know, and given time you will find out, you may not like what I stand for or how what I think the grand metanarrative of the Story of God interacting in the world means for you and me, and this is why I have waited, and lived out what I believe as opposed to forcing it upon you, because it is not theology or belief that will win you over, but love, after all it says that “Love Conquers all” and I believe that in this way Christ has conquered the world, both sin and death – your sins and mine.

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Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.