I have inhabited the Christian world for the better part of three decades. It’s a beautiful place. And it is also terribly dangerous.
Charlatans host TV shows to raise money for private jets from people who can’t afford their own groceries.
Fundamentalists believe they take the Bible literally. They dismiss anyone who disproves their bizarre version of reality by living the way they think God wants them to and hing it all go up in flames.
Evangelists desperate to save souls prey on the weak who aren’t sure they’re saved – who spend lifetimes wondering if they’ll go to heaven or hell, if they were sincere enough when they prayed the prayer the last 2,000 times.
People with excellent intentions write books about putting God first that make natural romantic feelings feel sinful.
I know where the land mines are.
People who don’t know what patriarchy is or where it comes from hold it up as “God’s best” for everyone, seeing only the beauty they imagine, and never the shame.
Men “know how young men are,” and shame young women for their choice of clothing.
We brandish our Bibles like swords – going so far as to have “sword drills” to find Bible verses – and use those swords to “exhort” others, but only serving to tear those others down.
We tell people who are attracted to other people of the same gender – through no fault of their own – that their attraction is sinful and if they ever marry someone they’re attracted to, that would be sinful as well.
I know where the land mines are.
But I said the Christian world is beautiful, too.
We have grace big enough to heal the universe.
We have a story filled with commands to care for the earth and the poor and the stranger.
We have a Christ who taught us to love our enemies.
But I know where the land mines are.
An atheist on Twitter told me, “Christianity isn’t a ‘good camp’ and ‘bad camp.’ It’s a tapestry woven with silk and barbed wire. Inseparable.”
Grace too often comes attached to impossible expectations – God forgives you for not doing the things that, if God was remotely reasonable, if God knew our frame, that we are but dust, would never demand of us.
The commands to care for the earth and the poor and the stranger appear in a book filled with commands to subdue the earth and kill our enemies and “whoever doesn’t work, shouldn’t eat,” that re-affirms our prejudices.
Like I said: I know where the land mines are.
So here I am, days away from starting a class on spiritual formation.
I have done my first reading.
I sat in on a class about missions that actually felt safe – that felt like missions might be something good.
I asked about what we might do as Christians about Christian traditions that seem antithetical to the Kingdom of God as I understand it – Christian traditions that run about hurting people and the world with impunity, who live up to Pascal’s quotation about how “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
I’m starting seminary in earnest on Tuesday.
I’m hoping to figure out how to disarm the land mines, or clear the field, or navigate around them and help others to do the same.
But I’m also hoping to discover truth and beauty and love, and grace larger than the universe.
I’m hoping to find reasons to believe, and not more reasons to redouble on my doubt and distrust God more.
Because I know where the land mines are.