Friday, February 6, 2009

Lord Save Us From Your Followers

I am approaching 50 years of age, I was once a tough guy, at least some think so. Many when looking at me now with the goatee, long hair, seem to think I still am, yet, the older I get, the more I search for an understanding of God, Spirituality, and discovering the place I need to be according to my understanding of that search, the more emotional I find myself being when I find either new answers that will take me in a new direction, or in obtaining reassurance that I am on the right path to where I need to be going. One of the beautiful things about this journey is that sometimes, in fact, more often than I really deserve, I get to see movies, read books, hear music that I believe God has touched to help me in that understanding. It isn’t always something super spiritual; in fact, one of the first instances of this in my life that had a dramatic impact was the movie The Prince of Tides which I write about in my book, The Keystone Kid. There are other times though, times God uses something with spiritual intent to point me to spiritual conclusions. Sometimes when this happens, that formerly big tough guy gets emotional; such was the case this morning after finishing my viewing of the new, sure to be controversial documentary, “Lord Save Us From Your Followers, The Movement Edition, Why Is The Gospel Of Love Dividing America?” I was so moved by knowing that I am on the right journey, have come to some of the right conclusions, that I found myself weeping. It wasn’t so much for me, I would say it was for the hurt I feel for the Church that has forgotten about the mission of Jesus, and especially those who have been hurt. There was also tears for those that get it and are being Jesus to a hurting world.

This film by Dan Merchant should be required viewing and discussion for any church. The good thing is that some churches will take up this task; the sad thing is, most churches, will ignore the challenge. It is a shame; it is why the Church as perceived by many has become more like the whore of Hosea than a beautiful bride that loves her husband, Jesus Christ.

Lord Save Us From Your Followers, (LSUFYF), is a documentary exploration that explores the Church, specifically in America. In the exploration we see not only the perception of the church from various segments of society, but also how many within the Church, and the political influence outside of the Church views themselves. It is a road journey of sorts where discussion takes place not only on the streets of various cities, but with certain public individuals who have offered public perspectives. From Al Frankin, to Ann Coulter, and from Bono of U2 to Anthony Campolo, and numerous other views are presented and challenged. The movie while quoting and using the Bible at various points depends largely on common sense. The majority of the documentary actually takes on the exploration of ideas of how the Church and Christianity would be viewed if they did one simple thing, act like Jesus. The effects, the challenges that come about are not only eye opening; they are concepts that are effective. We see the effectiveness of this approach in various places it seems the Church has been at war with, from the media to gay community and from the public sector to the homeless and poor. We see this by practical applications of trial and error by the makers of the film, and we see it from the reality of the impact of Para church organizations like World Vision in their work with the poor in Ethiopia. One of the amazing points in showing the power of being like Jesus comes not at the mouths of the religious, but those who are outside of the institutional Church, or mainstream Christianity. It is here, that if those individual people who make up the Church, choose to listen, and learn, a great deal of effective work can be done. Now don’t get me wrong, one of the reasons I loved this movie is it isn’t that we do these things to make projects out of people, we do it because we love them, just as Jesus loved them.

One of the things I think some within Christianity and the Church will become critical of is that the movie doesn’t address the “salvation” concepts required by some within Christian circles. On this point I would simply state, I don’t believe that is the purpose of the film. In the Bible Jesus tells the story about one who is planting or sowing seeds. Some fall on good ground, some bad ground, there are some that come and help some along to grow and be effective and some, well some seeds die. It all starts with the concept of planting seeds or sowing seeds, it is a concept that I believe the Church, and many with Christianity have forgotten about. It is an approach that drives the work I am involved in, it is an approach that many find fault in. I love this movie though because it addresses the idea that the building of relationship, the showing of unconditional love, of universal acceptance of the person, compassion for their hurts, is a starting point of showing a person the very love that Jesus showed them. It is in taking on the characteristics of Jesus that we genuinely learn to love others to the point that this love ultimately becomes a natural part of our persona. Jesus loved and hurt all people, so should we, including the child dying of aids, the hurting in a hurricane devastated city, the homeless on the street, even those we may disagree with, the Democrat, the Republican, the Homosexual, and the Ultra Conservative. Love is patient, love is kind, love is…, well love is many things, but it is seldom confrontational, angry, hateful, and disrespecting.

One of the challenges presented in LSUFYF is the need for open, respectful dialog with persons we may disagree with. The need to get to know and understand each other is one of the things the documentary helps illustrate many Christians do a poor job of. For those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus or Christian, we think we have all of the answers, yet we don’t understand those we are communicating with. In theological terms, getting to know people, showing people you love them where they are at is a concept we know Jesus illustrated, it is a concept called incarnation. Despite what some contemporary, popular Churches, Doctrines, Street Preachers, Bible Thumpers, may tell you, Jesus illustrated by how he led his life the methods we should use. Followers of Jesus understand what it means to love even those they may hate, what does this say about our ability to love those we simply disagree with on various points? While there is certainly the need for talking about the specifics of what Jesus said, that discussion has to start with an area of respect and understanding. Unfortunately, many who call themselves Christian, represent in name all of us who say we follow Jesus. The consequences of that has been devastating and in many ways, it is likely those individuals who are so dogmatic in their need to “confront sin,” have damaged the possibility of some people rejecting Jesus based solely on the behaviors and actions of those most outspoken who have proclaimed their actions was because of Jesus. When religious leaders call for the assassination of political leaders, or political leaders say we should kill all of the godless in a nation and make that nation a Christian nation, is it any wonder people are confused? When Jesus says to love your enemy, to pray for those that would do you harm, where does his followers get off saying and doing the exact opposite? When we do, is it any wonder people are confused? When taking these questions, our methods, and our results seriously, is it any wonder that real followers of Jesus would say about many in Christianity, Lord Save Us From Your Followers?

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