A Christian, Ex-evangelical's Reaction to "The Statement on Social Justice"
Overview of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel
You may have noticed in the news recently that conservative Christian leaders have just issued a “Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” and it’s creating a lot of controversy.
Just a little disclaimer before you read any further, I “read” the statement but not extensively…because snore! So, I don’t really have a lot to say about the content of the statement. In my half-hearted attempt to read it, I didn’t find anything that I glaringly disagreed with. I mean there is a whole slew of stuff in there that I’m not certain about and things that I have slightly different opinions on. And almost everything in there I would have worded differently...but that's because I'm a writer.
You can read the whole thing for yourself.
And you can read a better review of the whole document from this guy, who apparently doesn't have ADD and did read the whole thing extensively.
The Problem of Evangelicals Being Divisive
But for me, it’s not really about what it says but the fact that it’s divisive. I mean if they had taken the whole document straight from my diary where I shared my deepest held beliefs, I’d still be like, “I’m not sure that agreeing with me should be a qualifier for if you are in or out with Jesus.”
Because sometimes I look back at things I wrote years ago (or earlier in the day) and think, “I’m not sure I agree with that.” And yet, I have not a single ounce of doubt that I’m “in”. I know that I’m walking with Jesus and I don’t need your “statement” to be a litmus test for whether I am or not. I’m “in” because I’m following Jesus. Part of being his follower is growing which I’m continually doing in my understanding and application of the tremendous amount of truth, grace, and freedom found in the Bible. I’ve been a follower for 30 years and I still have a lot to learn. The biggest thing I’ve been learning lately is how much more inclusive Jesus is than what I was taught by conservative Christians.
What makes me "in"? My complete dependence on Jesus for my salvation. It isn’t me having all of my beliefs right. It is me walking through this life with him and somehow him graciously seeing me as righteous even though I’m still a work in progress.
The Hurt Evangelicals Are Missing
I didn’t know about this Statement on Social Justice until I saw people posting about it on Twitter. And let me just warn you, if you go check those hashtags out, you are going to find a lot of angry people ranting about how much they hate evangelicals. But if you look closely, you will also see a lot of hurt that has been caused by some very judgmental religious people who tried to control people through fear and shame rather than telling them about their loving Savior who loves them and wants the very best for them.
And this makes me extremely sad. I wish I could reach out to every single one of them and tell them about the Jesus I know.
But this is something I have been watching happen for years now. People are leaving conservative evangelical churches in droves. When they leave and the church reacts with defensive and divisive statements about who’s in and who’s out or “if you aren’t completely with us, you are against us.”, it’s like a final slap in the face to those who have already been hurt.
Sadly, it reminds me of the defensive stance I’ve seen over and over from abusive parents whose kids have finally grown up and are standing for themselves. I’ve dealt with several abusive parents who faced the confrontation with their kids with defensiveness rather than remorse. The same thing happens in all kinds of other abusive relationships, including religious ones. When victims start to become wise and confront the power of the abuser, it threatens their power and they lash out.
I keep seeing these tactics over and over with people who have left churches because they were genuinely hurt,even abused but I seldom see remorse. People are leaving evangelical churches in droves and it isn’t because we are awful heretics who don’t follow Jesus. It is because we were used by you for your agenda and your power and we don’t want that anymore. We grew up and we want the kinds of communities Jesus came to establish. Communities where people were equal and they all built each other up. The early church was such a caring and supportive community that it was actually considered a punishment to be left out of their fellowship. It was the formula for correcting bad behavior. “They won’t listen to you and keep sinning? Don’t invite them into your fellowship anymore.”
The Christian Community We Long For
I suppose it could be argued that the Statement on Justice is trying to exclude people from their fellowship. And I will concede that point. They are doing an AMAZING job of excluding people. The problem is they suck at creating a community that any of us want to be a part of. 87% of Americans aren’t with you guys. Maybe you could stop attacking them and go ask them why. Maybe they aren’t all as awful as you think. Maybe you could learn something. Maybe we are trying to follow Jesus too and we didn’t find him in your church.
A few months ago, someone criticized me for not going to church. The reason I’m not currently going to a church anywhere is because I have some good friends who are Christians but don’t feel like they would fit in at church because of some issues they are struggling with in their lives. When I visit churches, I always look at everything through the lens of “how would my friends perceive this?” and I see tons of things that would keep them from seeing Jesus. So, I’m looking for a community to be a part of.
My critic didn’t want to hear about my reasoning, she just said, “If you are really a Christian, you can’t leave the church, you are the church.”
She walked away and didn’t want to discuss the matter any further. Which was fine, I didn’t know how to respond anyway!
After mulling over her statement for a few months, I realized that what she said was absolutely true. I can’t leave the church because the “church” that Jesus established is the community of all his followers. Turns out that THE “church” is leaving your institutions! So, you might want to find out why instead of attacking us. Or you are going to find yourself sitting alone in an empty building while the CHURCH is out finding all the people Jesus cares about and telling them who he really is.