Some of my friends are concerned for me, about how I’m doing spiritually; or, as they put it, about my ‘relationship with the Lord’.
I keep telling them that Jesus and I are doing just fine, thank you very much.
But in the evangelical milieu from which I come and from where a good number of my social media friends still hail, being liberal minded – theologically, socially, politically – is not considered consonant with being on good terms with the Master.
My job title doesn’t ease their minds either. To be responsible for the even-handed leadership of a team of airport chaplains representing six different world religions, only one of which bears the name of Christ, without having even the slightest urge to try to convert my non-Christian colleagues, well, this seems to them evidence enough that I have denied the narrow path that leads to eternal life and, given half a chance, would blissfully wander off down the road to perdition, enjoying that wee bit more elbow-room.
I’ve thought about writing a little book, perhaps I still shall, something along the lines of “Ten Steps to Becoming a Liberal Who Still Loves Jesus”. Surely there must be others out there who, like me, still want to honour God with their lives, still endeavour to be ardent followers of Jesus, but who have seen through the sham of so much of what passes for evangelical Christianity these days.
No, you don’t have to be a biblical literalist standing for creationism and the ‘traditional family’ to be an authentic Christian. Really, you don’t. You may, but you don’t have to. You don’t have to believe capitalism is God’s finest instrument to deliver economic justice throughout the world. You don’t have to instinctively deny every bit of science that makes you question your faith or worldview. And, if you are American, you don’t have to believe your nation’s founding documents are equivalent to holy scriptures. They are full of good ideas, yes, but the Founding Fathers are dead. Get over it. Babies and bathwater duly noted, every generation must come to terms about the best way to form a just society in their own age and context.
Think of an individual who is all the things that you, perhaps, are not. I’ll suggest a black, lesbian, tree-hugging, socialist, pot-smoking, rap-loving, loud-talking, Democratic, Buddhist for example. A very interesting individual, indeed! I’m sure I cross paths with her somewhere on my bus commute to Heathrow every morning. But go ahead and imagine your polar opposite, whatever that might be.
You may not find it pleasant to spend time with this person. I know I wouldn’t; that loud talking would really put me off.
Yet there is absolutely nothing here that makes her anathema to God, or that makes God prefer you over her. The attributes I mention above tell you nothing about what is actually important and enduring in life: the qualities of her character, the strength of her relationships, her love of God and neighbour.
Is your heart big enough to make room for people who are so very different from you? Are your eyes keen enough to see the image of the Creator in them? Are you willing to make space for them in your society? Can you still love them even when they win, politically, and you lose?
If not, then I suggest you and Jesus aren’t really seeing eye to eye.