But then again, maybe you shouldn't. Maybe the very fact that you aren't inclined to read a "pastoral post" is precisely the reason you should read on.
See, today has been one of those days when I realize I'm not like a lot of other pastors. Perhaps the whole playing in a rock band thing and wearing Crocs out in public should've clued me in already. But more and more I have those moments, particularly in conversations with folks or scanning the Facebook news feed of my friends, when I realize I'm either tremendously out of step with mainline Christianity or on the cutting edge of it. And I think my location has something to do with it - small-town rural south - although I get the sense that it's not just here.
More and more I've come to understand that my ideas about faith, and how that faith informs the way I live, can be quite different from the way others' ideas of faith inform the way they live. And it's less about beliefs and more about how we feel about the things we believe in. It often puts me in an odd position of being "the other voice;" the "contrary-to" representative. I get the Greg Brady treatment: Gee, I never thought about it that way before.
Does this make any sense?
And it hit me today: sometimes I feel like a counterweight. Or, more accurately, part of a counterweight movement in the Christian faith, balancing out some of the "cultural Christianity" so prevalent in our society with a more nuanced perspective. I find myself apologizing for the actions of other Christians: I'm sorry for that church in Kentucky who is protesting at that funeral - that's not how all of us act. I'm sorry for that Alabama governor who said he can't work with anyone who doesn't believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior - that's not how all of us think. And it's not that I asked to be part of this; it just kind of happened. This movement has been around for a while but tends to rise to the surface when the pendulum swings too far the other way; a sort of natural reaction to steady the scales a bit.
I feel like I'm part of this movement when I'm having conversations with folks and realize how starkly different we perceive the same elements of Christian faith:
There are those, for instance, who believe that God is to be feared and they should live fearfully. I believe God is to be loved and that we should live in hope.
There are those who think that God is outside their grief and loss and wants us to steer clear of it and "be strong." I believe God is smack-dab in the middle of it and wants us to go right into the messiness with him.
There are those who believe the world is coming to an end. I believe God is in the process of renewing and restoring the world.
There are those who believe God is on America's side. I believe God is on every side, and we're the ones who've made such a big deal about the whole side thing.
There are those who believe the ultimate goal in our faith journey is to reach that glorious moment when we finally choose God. I believe the more important "choosing" is when God chooses us - and, in fact, that God already has.
There are those who believe God is out to get us. I believe.....well, I believe that's absolute crap, to be blunt. And it pains me to know there are actually people out there who go through each day with this weighing them down.
There are those who believe we're meant to identify with the prodigal son in the parable by the same name - that we're the ones who've screw up, that God forgives us and throws a party and everything's great. I believe when Jesus told the parable he meant for us to identify with the older brother - stewing out in the fields because the party is not for us but for those we feel aren't worthy of the honor, and we have to decide if we're going or not.
There are those who believe God's primary role is to be judgmental. I believe God's primary role is to love unconditionally.
There are those who believe the church is God's little "country club" and in the business of determining who is "in" and who is "out." I believe the church's doors should be open to everyone. Period.
There are those who believe that Christianity is only about heaven and hell. I believe it's about this life as much as the next one.
There are those who believe that "real Christians" are of one political party and not another. I believe Jesus' message was political, but that it supercedes our political categories.
There are those who believe that being a "believer" is enough. I believe that being a "follower" is the other side of the coin.
There are those who believe that the Bible is literal. I believe it's inspired (read Song of Solomon 4:1-5 and tell me that's supposed to be taken literally).
There are those who believe we are held accountable for our actions. I believe that too. But I also believe in grace.
Sometimes - many times - I feel like a counterweight. The good news is that, as I look around, I realize I'm not alone. Perhaps you're part of the movement too. And if you're not - especially if you're one who initially thought of skipping this post - at least know there's a different way of looking at the faith than what you've heard from some people or seen on TV. At least know that we're here.