I am angry. It's not uncommon for me, in fact. Probably not for you either. Not to insult you. If you are a reader and a thinker (and if you are a blogger, you're almost certainly both) and if you roam around the blogosphere just a little, you will find opinions and attitudes that make you, well, angry--or irritated, disgusted, enraged, hurt, disappointed.
Blogs on Islam (see my sidebar) or the New York Times don't make me so angry because I fully expect that I will find views there that I don't agree with. But when I read within my own circle and find people railing and spewing invective like a train about to fly off its tracks, I get angry. Anger at the attitudes of other Christians prompted me to write Is Justice Without Mercy Godly in Prison? If people reason well and write with a slightly humble spirit, I am not offended even if I disagree. But there are the other people. . . People who seem to write without humilty, grace, or restraint. People who attack others. People who belittle others. People who call themselves Christians.
This is the Wild West Blogosphere. Maybe people think that inflammatory statements are part of the package. I don't. Sure, I've done some ranting, especially in my last post. But attacking other people, NO. If I ever cross that line, please tell me. I will apologise and even remove my post. Yes, it's good blogging to attack a particular position and even attack it hard. But to attack a person, especially one who is your brother or sister, or categorize them and label them or assume evil things about them is wrong.
Am I too naive?
Okay, I'll be specific. This morning I read an article called The Gospel of the Middle Class by Michelle Parenteau. The article seems to be intended to be a short, non-technical editorial for general Christian readers. The gist of the article is that God has not called us to be comfortable, middle-class Christians. The author gives a few examples of that, such as compulsive shopping at Target and buying Starbucks every time you want it with no restraints.
It seemed reasonable to me, even on the bland side. But it provoked such an angry backlash. People accusing her of teaching salvation by works. People speculating that she would crucify Jesus if he returned to earth. Here is one egregious example,
The fact that so many people are wrapped up in such a hard core works
philosophy would probably explain why the church at large is a joke to most of
America and the world. God only knows if Christ were among us today, in the
flesh, most of these works minded folks would crucify him again for being to
comfortable, and hanging with sinners. To Michelle and all the great Christian
performers out there, determined to do God one better than the next guy. Go get
em! Give up that Latte and be a complete jerk for the next hour because your
addicted to caffeine. Go pray more because God isn't big enough to do anything
without you praying all the time. Keep performing people! Because the gift of
salvation might wear off and you might loose it.
Nothing I could see in her article warrents such a bitter tirade. Nothing. If I had written the article, I would have cut a little deeper with my knife. This is a topic I'm passionate about. God does call us to a life of sacrifice. God does call us to lay down our lives to serve him. Not because we are earning our salvation. Not to suffer without a purpose. Not to do better than other people. No, he has freed us from our slavery to things that do not satisfy so that we can find true joy in our worship of him. Joy so real it remains strong even in sacrifice and death. Michelle said nothing about death or sacrifice, just that we might want to limit our comfort for the sake of others.
Sparrow and I have discussed why we get a lackluster response when we post about issues such as Sudan. Compassion fatigue is one reason, I think. But I never considered that some Christians are militantly defending their right to be comfortable. Consider what this person wrote,
Personally, I feel just as close to God whether or not I have a latte, an email discussion about politics, an evening out at a nice restaurant, a sale at target, or whatever. If others feel enslaved by those things, then fine - let them deal with it and give up whatever they need to. I just think this logic reaks of "eat all of your veggies because there are kids in ethiopia...blah blah blah" I know I will be misunderstood, but my point is nothing about me giving up a latte from Starbucks in favor of punching the prayer clock is going to make my brothers in Africa any healthier, or at less risk of getting AIDS. That's naive. It's the idea that unless everyone can be rich, those who are rich should give up their wealth. Until everyone can be healed, those who are healthy should be sick. It's all the same logic, and nothing more than making people feel guilty for not meeting some religious requirement.
Perhaps my anger is causing me to misunderstand this person's writing. Or perhaps this person misunderstood the original article and overreacted. We all do that. I am trying to find the balance between being gracious and stating my thoughts. I am disappointed that this person would not recognize that the decisions she makes each day do have an impact our brother around the world. Even eating your veggies (a vegetarian post is coming soon.) I am discouraged that a Christian would defend his right to keep his wealth. Following Christ even to death is not "some religious requirement." It is the greatest honor and joy we could dream of.
I'm sure I will be blogging about this a lot. To me, it is a core part of the Christian Hedonism that I wrote about. Yes, the Christian life is about joy. But there is no joy in knowing that I'm fat and comfortable while the sister that Christ died for is being raped and murdered in Darfur. Okay, if I am pouring out my life in ministy where God has called me and because of that I am unable to help my sister, at least I can take comfort that God can call someone else to serve her. But if I'm not even willing to give up my latte, because Christ has called me to be free to drink a caramel machiatto, well. . .
Jesus presses us toward a wartime lifestyle that does not value simplicity for simplicity's sake but values wartime austerity for what it can produce for the cause of world evangelization. He said, "Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with money-bags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail" (Luke 12:33). . . . Our great danger today is thinking that the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do. No matter how grateful we are, gold will not make the world think that our God is good; it will make people think that our god is gold. That is no honor to the supremacy of his worth. (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions, page 102)