“Alternative Theologies: Parables for the Modern World,” which includes my “Open Letter to the Christian Right,” is now available from B Cubed Press.
I don’t know how to be openly Christian in the US today.
This isn’t because Christians are being persecuted by godless liberals or cultural Marxists. It’s because ‘Christianity’ is being invoked to justify abuses and injustices that go against everything I know of Christ. Because public figures invoke the name of Jesus– who told a would-be follower to sell all his possessions and give to the poor and said it was very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven–over the Prosperity Gospel which sees wealth as the reward of faith. Because people who claim to loyally follow Jesus–the homeless one who healed and fed poor folks for free–keep trying to cut the programs that help poor people get housing, food and medical care. Because people describe Jesus–who warned that anyone who spoke contemptuously of another living soul was in danger of Hell–as having divinely ordained a President who mocks and vilifies people who disagree with him and people who don’t look like him. Because people urge us to exclude refugees and asylees from our nation so as not to undermine our faith in and obedience to Jesus–who was a refugee child. Because faith leaders define concern for unarmed people killed by law enforcement as disobedience to the faith of Jesus, an unarmed man killed by law enforcement.
When I saw B Cubed Press’ call for “Alternative Theologies,” I was glad to have a chance to write about this painful disconnect. I was also tempted to unload my fury at the people I see as distorting my faith. But as I sat down to write I remembered some folks I know who hold that very different vision of our common faith. Not Trump, Sessions, Pruitt, Buchanan or Graham, but ordinary people who approve of their words and deeds. Those people are friends and neighbors. People I’ve prayed with and volunteered with. Some are people whose kindness, honesty, courage and capacity for self-sacrifice have inspired and humbled me. In daily life we clearly worship the same God and help each other along. When political questions arise, suddenly I find it hard to recognize my friends and their God. So for this anthology I didn’t write about those people; I wrote to them, wrote them an open letter about the things that unite us and the things that divide us, about the Jesus we all know and love from the Bible and the Jesus I see coming to us in the world today,
We are members of one another, the Bible says, and I believe it’s true. Immigrant and native-born, black and white, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim, Trump supporters and Resisters…we are members of one another. God knows it’s easy to forget this some days. But I keep trying to remember, to re-member us as one people. I’m grateful to the folks at Alternative Theologies for making a space for my attempt at re-membering.
The membership of writers who contributed to Alternative Theologies seems to span a wide range of beliefs and unbeliefs. As a reader, I found some pieces that vividly illustrated the gap between who we Christians claim/intend to be and who we all too often are; some that wrestled movingly with comfortable proclamations of faith in a deeply broken world; some pieces that helped me imagine what this faith that has always surrounded and filled me might look like from the outside (a salutary if not altogether comfortable experience); and some that I didn’t get. Some pieces left me laughing with the writer, some left me grieving with the writer, some left me pondering, some left me bewildered, a couple left me cringing…my usual range of responses in any group discussing the things that matter most. (I imagine that my piece might annoy some people and leave others cold–and I hope some may find it helpful.) I think many readers could find something here to be inspired by, something to reflect on, something to rejoice with, something to mourn with, and something to take offense at. I’d be glad to hear your thoughts if you try it out.