Keep Your Big Feet off the Welcome Mat
In yesterday’s post I discussed the fact that the issue of persecuted Christians is not the elephant in the room that no one talks about because that particular elephant is not able to get through the church doors. For some reason the church in America feels no need to build doors that will accommodate that elephant.
Other elephants also exist, which obviously encountered the same problem of accessing the sanctuary.
One such elephant is the abortion issue. Yes, I would call more than 52 million brutally murdered babies right in our own nation an elephant if not Tyrannosaurus Rex. We might allow a small model of this elephant in the sanctuary once a year for Sanctity of Life Sunday, but then we keep it in the basement closet the rest of the time where it cannot guilt us about the more than 2000 babies that experience brutal homicide at the hands of abortionists daily.
Yet another elephant barred from church entrance is found in our current political environment that incessantly tightens the noose around the necks of Christians. I find myself put off by casual comments such as, “Well one of these days the church in America will undergo persecution also,” as if such an admission is a badge of honor, all the while doing little or nothing to impede the coming of that day. This sounds for all the world like a Neville Chamberlain attitude that lacks concern for what might befall our children and grandchildren as long as we have peace in our time.
Pondering the Prejudice against Elephants
I have pondered the reason for the unwillingness of the church in America to address these issues. It would seem that these elephants trumpeting in the parking lot and banging up against the door frames in an effort to enter would manage to get some attention. These issues are so big, so daunting, so gripping that it is hard to grasp why we would not only make our sanctuaries accessible to them but also allow them on the platform, even if we had to squeeze the drum set to the side. The widespread and ongoing rape and murder of fellow Christians, the brutal murder of innocent babies right in our own cities, the increasing, aggressive political tyranny that will place our children and grandchildren in bondage: how can we pretend these issues don’t exist? How can we not actively engage them?
One would think that substantial time would be committed to prayer regarding these issues every Sunday. Instead I find that in most evangelical churches no prayer is offered at all in these regards on most Sundays.
I would also think that committees would be appointed and an action plan developed, including joining hands with other churches in a united effort to stop the horrendous assaults on fellow Christians, babies, and Christian citizens. I do not find this being done.
I do find a flock of parachurch ministries emerging to fill this gap. However, they cannot and do not fill the void left by the church. Though I am glad that they have picked up and are carrying the ball to the extent that they do, a negative side to their existence and work is found in the implication that these problems are not the responsibility of the church. The church constitutes God’s instrument for dealing with them, and until the church confronts them forcefully they will continue, with significant guilt laying at the church’s feet.
What could be the reason that the church does not notice or act?
The Absence of Elephant Tradition
One reason for evangelical failure to accommodate these elephants might be that the church is heavily influenced by its own culture, and these concerns are not part of our church tradition.
We tend to think of Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and mainline denominations as being stuck in their traditions, and they are, but evangelicals suffer from the same problem, the difference being the difference in traditions.
Most contemporary evangelicals might see themselves as rising above the cultural rut as evidenced by their rejection of the old evangelical style of music for a new version. However, a closer look reveals that they are as stuck as others, being locked as tightly into their new worship tradition as the previous generation was with theirs. In practically every contemporary evangelical church you attend you stand for the singing, getting the lyrics from the obligatory slides, you have the mandated instrumentation and worship team, the music is pretty much the same style with the same harmonies, many songs being written by the same composers, necessitating that each song be repeated numerous times, and that the worship leader employ something of a country accent and other stylistic features. We might have changed our tradition, but don’t expect any more change. We haven’t always done it this way, but we always will from here on out. The point is that even churches believing themselves to be non-traditional are also enslaved by the culture they have created.
Because most evangelicals are subject to control by their own culture, and since persecution and politics haven’t been part of our tradition, we feel no inclination or responsibility to address these issues, regardless of how big the elephants grow. It’s just not what we do.
Culture Trumps Scripture
Here we find yet another case in which tradition trumps the Word of God. At the Judgment of the Sheep and Goats, Christ accentuates our responsibility towards suffering brothers and sisters.
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:41-45)
Likewise the writer of Hebrews charges us with this responsibility: “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them–those who are mistreated–since you yourselves are in the body also.” (Hebrews 13:3)
These exhortations must motivate us to rise above our tradition, expand our sphere of responsibility, and as a church that gives so much verbal affirmation to love, open our hearts to brothers and sisters who desperately need us to put love into action.
Cultural confines represent only one factor banning these elephants from the church. Tomorrow I plan to identify others.