Level With Yourself
“If baking a cake for a gay wedding means you support gay marriage, then helping a pedophile get elected in Alabama means you support pedophilia.” – Scott Nevins
The logic is sound. The statement pointed and poignant. This is the world we live in and it is not pretty or easy to swallow. With no facetiousness intended, the idiom that “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” seems àpropos here. This is not a new debate and I know that by writing this I will potentially open the door to all kinds of political diatribe and the temptation to take “sides” in this imagined “culture” war so many believe us to be fighting. Please forgive me – I do not intend anything here to be an endorsement of, or slander towards, any political party or candidate – that is not the issue at hand. The problem presented is the absolute cognitive dissonance that so many Christians have fallen into, the moral irrelevancy, and the presentation of a “Christianity” that is absolutely devoid of the Christ, inconsistent, and utterly meaningless. It has very much become a club for the chosen, a haven for the holy, and a menagerie for members only.
Yes, I have been and will continue to be “harsh” on the “church”, and I know what I write here often sounds condemning and critical and perhaps even seems as if I’m saying I no longer believe in or want to be a part of the very institution I call my home. That is not my intent. The church is full of hypocrites; how could it be otherwise? It includes me. I am a part of the hypocrisy. I know this and accept fully that I have helped to create the problem. I am not soft on sin; I am generous on grace. However I am at a point, as one of my favorite singer/songwriters David Bazaan says in his song, “Level With Yourself”, finding myself reflecting on what it all means. Like someone who’s woken from a long nap, and knows that they are no longer asleep and dreaming, I want to deal with the real…with the now. What I am asking, is for all of us who identify as “Christians” or “the Church”, etc., to do a FULL STOP, and consider our calling, our consistency, and what things like cake and political candidates have to do with any of it?!?! When the world around us associates the word Christian with anti-gay, anti-abortion, and bigotry and all things that we are seemingly AGAINST more than loving, pro ALL life, welcoming to everyone, and what we are FOR, we must stop and consider what we are doing. As Rich Mullins once said, “All I ask of anybody is that you make a little effort to be consistent.” What are we doing? Perhaps we ought to level with ourselves…we have failed in so many ways to be the real thing and have become a shadow of the real.
I do still believe in Christianity because I believe in the Rebel Jesus, and I believe in the Church because I believe it still can be the place where people experience true love, safety, and unbiased and unconditional welcome. As Dr. King put it so well, “YES!, I do see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body…” We are no longer living this radical love out, and have taken the message of the Christ and twisted it to fit some pietistic illusion we have of sitting on a moral high ground, separate, politicized, and removed from “the world” that we seem to hate so much. However, when we read the Gospels and the accounts of what Jesus said and did, we hear that he often looked out on “the world” or “the multitudes” and was “filled with compassion.” We don’t hear that he looked out on “them” and rejoiced that “they” were not “us” and was filled with contempt for them. He was filled with compassion and love. Are we so moved? Are we filled with compassion or are we really nothing more than American Nationalists hiding behind a false narrative that God blesses us and we are the called and chosen ones, and can now relax because we know we’re going to “heaven” and they are going to “hell?” I think Dr. King was prophetic. We have in so many ways become an irrelevant social club with no meaning for our time. What are we doing? What am I doing? Level with yourself.
What I am saying does not mean that I believe there is no hope. Quite the opposite in fact. I have so much hope, despite the despair I often find myself struggling with, because I am seeing the mystics and lovers waking like never before. I am finding myself in conversations with people who, as we talk, have the revelation at the same time that I do, of, “What?!?! You TOO?!?! I thought I was the only one!” (to quote C.S. Lewis) The lovers, the mystics, the artists are all waking up and saying “NO!” to the fog, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry, and the lie that things are ok with the Church. The times seem overwhelmingly dark but the only options to deal with such things are to either curl up, give up, and retreat, or to love fiercely and face the fallout, even if loving everyone comes with the danger of being ridiculed and castigated and kicked out of the very group one has always identified with since childhood.
The gays, the immigrants, the refugees, the minorities, the women, the “other” is not our problem. We are. We have met the enemy, and he is us. We must level with ourselves, and admit that what we have become is not who we were called to be, nor is it what the Christ, the anointed Rebel Jesus, told us to be and do in this world. As Rich Mullins said,
“Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.”
Level with yourself. You are created for more. We all are. God accepts everyone just as they are, wherever they are, with a love that carries no condition other than the realization that you are already beloved by the Divine and invited to the dance. I know this goes against the very grain of many who want this to be untrue and who preach the opposite – those who want to believe that all of their hard work puts them in a better place than the gay homeless drunk immigrant beggar on the street – but again as brother Rich says, “They’re just wrong. They’re not bad; they’re just wrong.” Stop worrying about whether you’re winning or doing it right. Living lavishly or “in sin” comes with its own cost – there is no need for us to be the gatekeepers and punishers of anyone else but ourselves. You most likely already know this. Level with yourself and leave it all behind, come and follow the Rebel Jesus, and love the hell out of everyone you meet, here and now, and you might just find yourself leveled in the end…