Should the church love everyone? Should church members love their gay and lesbian neighbors? Is the question of whether people of the same sex should be married be one which creates a “culture war”? Should the church be a combatant in “culture wars”? What is the Message of the ‘church’ anyway?
What should the church encourage its members to be at war over? Who is the enemy of the church? More precisely, who is God’s enemy? Who gets to define what God wants the world to be like? Where do we get a definition of “neighbor” for today’s world? What got me thinking about all of this was an article I read about Russell Moore, “the principal public voice for the Southern Baptist Convention”, which claims about 16 million members making it the country’s biggest evangelical group. (WSJ, 10/22/13) What I say isn’t going to change “society”. What my denomination, which has less than 200,000 members, says isn’t going to make much of a difference to the world. But, when the voice of 16 million people starts talking, that voice can move the needle of public opinion. Mr. Moore told his 45,000 churches that their gay and lesbian neighbors “aren’t part of a public conspiracy.” He said that same-sex marriage “shouldn’t be seen as a ‘culture war’ political issue.” Is this the language of 21st century reformation or accommodation? Who is the enemy the church is engaged with in battle? Is the “war” over who’s in and who’s out, or is it against “principalities” beyond our sight?
I am writing this on the last weekend before October 31, which is a major date you will likely celebrate, right? No, not the celebration of chocolate and costumes (both of which I enjoy), but the celebration of Reformation Day. Of course, only a tiny fraction of people will wake up on October 31 and say with joy, “It’s Reformation Day!” To all except the most devout Lutheran and Reformed folks it probably has no meaning, and some would argue we should just abandon its remembrance because it recalls a time of deep division (dare we say “religious war”?) rather than the unity for which Christ deeply prayed. To which I reply, if the church is called to unity, somebody, no-“most-bodies”, didn’t seem to get the message. What happened? The “church”, by engaging in “culture wars” for the last 40 years, has mangled the Message of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, hospitality. Russell Moore is no Martin Luther, nor is he trying to be. But, on Thursday, as you eat your candy bar, wonder what our Message is today. Who is the enemy we are called to defeat and who are the people we are called to love as neighbors? If we understood that distinction, would the church look different?