>There’s been a lot of talk lately about renouncing religion. It started about a week ago when author Anne Rice went on Facebook and renounced her association with Christianity.
In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen – Anne Rice
I must say that while I applaud Ms Rice for standing up and saying this, I’ve never experienced life in a church that is anything like what she describes. Growing up my church welcomed all comers. We accepted the broken, those struggling with the societal norms of sexuality, were home to several feminists, advocated for the use of condoms and the pill, never asked or suggested who people should vote for, and one year my Sunday-school teacher was a micro-biologist.
I first learned the term “legalism” in high-school. I was stunned! Stunned that someone could take the words of Jesus and twist them into something so rigid and ugly. I was even more stunned that some people could so completely ignore the words of Jesus and base a so called Christian worldview on modern teachers who were clearly manipulating religion for their own gain.
In 1987, televangelist Jim Baker was sentenced to prison for tax evasion and his marriage collapsed as a result of the same kinds of sin that people in my church were completely open about. Baker’s disgrace, and revelations that his wife was addicted to prescription drugs, came only a few years after our own pastor had confessed of a similar sin. My heart went out to the Bakers but I prayed even more for those who so viciously attacked them. I couldn’t help but ask “What kind of God would stand for this?”
I was recently asked if I was a man of precept or a man of principle. There must have a been a blank look on my face because my interrogator went on to clarify that a man of precept follows the rules while a man of principle interprets them and adapts along with the situation. With that clarification in mind I had to say that I definitely like to think of myself as a man of principle and I think Jesus was too. But that doesn’t mean you can throw out the precepts, they are there for a reason, you just need to get at the principle that informed them in the first place so that you can make an intelligent judgement.
Getting at the principle behind the precepts is what Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount and it’s what he meant when he said he had come to fulfill the law. Starting in verse 21 of Matthew chapter 5, Jesus gives six clarifications of some very popular precepts. He starts by stating the precept, “you have heard it said” and then giving the principle, “but I say to you”. In every case the principle both frees his audience from a rigid interpretation of a popular precept and guides them deeper and closer to the heart of God; don’t murder becomes guard against anger, don’t commit adultery becomes be careful of lust, etc.
So to Anne Rice and all those who are struggling with legalism let me take a stab at some of the precepts you may find so offensive and point to the heart of God.
– You have heard it said; the church is anti-gay, but I say to you; expressions of sexuality are private and those who may not fit your definition of normal are still your neighbour and deserving of love and respect. (Matthew 22:37-40)
– You have heard it said; the church is anti-feminist, but I say to you; women are a vital part of your community and just as capable as men of leadership. (Judges 4:4-5)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-artificial birth control, but I say to you; sex is awesome, enjoy! But regardless of your marital status do not risk bringing a child into this world if you are un-prepared to be a parent, it is a far greater sin to abandon or neglect a child than to prevent their conception. (Matthew 18:10)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-democrat, but I say to you; the Lord can use all governments for His purpose, vote based on principles and know that no matter what, the Lord is in control. (Romans 13:1,2)
– You have heard it said, the church is anti-science, but I say to you; the universe is an amazing place, explore, study, and understand. (Genesis 1:28)
I’m glad Ms Rice started this conversation and I hope that she and others like her are able to find a home in a gay friendly, feminist friendly, birth-control friendly, democrat friendly and science friendly community of believers. If not she can call me, I know a few.
In Jesus’ name – Lauren