We are going to talk about stuff that we think is more important than the stuff you think is most important. And we’d love your input, as long as you don’t talk about that other stuff.
That’s why no theological conservatives accepted the invitation to come and speak at “Big Tent Christianity” here in Raleigh this week. It had nothing to do with job security, or being seen in public with gay people, or aligning with Brian McLaren, for the vast majority of folks. But we appreciate the condescension. Poor theological conservatives. Can’t come out and play, because their congregations won’t let them.
Among progressive Christians like McLaren, there is such a false sense of what we on the other side of the disagreement are thinking. There is the assumption that we can’t talk about issues for fear of losing jobs or support. While I am sure that situation exists for some, the vast majority of urban or suburban pastors who lead theologically conservative congregations have no trouble talking about the issues publicly, and would love a chance to really dialogue with people who disagree.
But that’s not what this conference was.
“Big Tent Christianity” was for folks who want to move on from the disagreements. (having decided that their side of the disagreement is correct) Here’s a quote from their website:
But many of the old battlelines no longer speak to Christians today, especially to the youth. Indeed, our divisions are driving some folks away from the church altogether.
So, let’s stop talking about things that divide us, because that’s what the kids want.
We’d love to talk about the “non-devisive” issues that progressives want to talk about like injustice, poverty, and human trafficking. The problem is that we literally can’t talk about those issues without talking about a really divisive issue: the gospel.
Christians who believe that they are wicked sinners saved by the (historical) brutal, sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of a real person never move past that issue. We can’t. We believe that it really happened. We believe that the Scriptures are true, inerrant, and our highest authority. Our life makes no sense if Jesus’ bones were discovered tomorrow. It’s not a motivational book that we read to feel good about ourselves. It’s God’s word to his people. And it is always allowed to and welcomed to contradict us. We are wrong, scripture is right. Even when it doesn’t line up with our political cause, or cultural biases.
And we think that the gospel, as described in that last paragraph, is the only way to end poverty, human trafficking, and injustice. You can’t separate the two issues, in our mind. Our biggest issue, the issue that we can’t get past, is the solution to all of the other issues. And it all hinges on how we read our Bibles.
As I’ve written before, I don’t feel like any effort is being made to really engage those of us who are theologically conservative but sensible. It is really easy to engage and discount those lunatics like Fred Phelps and Qur’an burning idiots that are conservative. Sure, there are folks out there who daily misuse scripture to be bigoted and racist and sexist. There are folks who assume that to be conservative theologically is to be conservative politically, without regard to each individual issue, as though Jesus were Republican. There are folks who abuse scripture to subjugate others and justify all sorts of wickedness. I’m not defending those people. But what about those of us who readily join the progressives in disgust over guys like Fred Phelps, are working toward peace and justice in the world, and also hold to an inerrant Bible? They’ve yet to agree that we even exist, or are sensible.
We’d love to dialogue. We’d love to pitch a tent big enough for all of us to get under. And we’ll even agree to talk about the issues that are biggest in your mind. But you have to agree to return the favor.