Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Legislated into Christianity?

I occasionally (okay, more like frequently) stew on the madness and hypocracy of the Christian right. I am a Christian, I (try to) live by the Word of God in my personal life, but I get so frustrated with the Republican political agenda to feebly try and force people into Christianity through legislation. The main two reasons being, God gave us free will, and God doesn't force himself upon us. (Which I guess are pretty much the same thing, but go with me here.)

The thinking is so backward it makes me want to scream! I am going to take this from a Christian perspective first, then break down a few hot button issues.

First of all, God has given us all free will. We can choose to follow Him, or not. We can choose good, or we can choose evil. God never forced Adam and Eve to follow Him. He encouraged them to do so, but he did not force them to. They had the choice to avoid eating the fruit (as a side note, why does everyone always assume it was an apple?!?) and be in constant communication with God, or eat it and suffer pain, death, destruction, sickness, and all other evil we as human beings have to experience, and inherent separation from God if we do not consciously seek it. And we all know, they chose to give in to temptation and eat of the tree. Even God's very first humans had a choice whether to accept Him or not. I think this is very profound.

I had a hard time finding a verse that explains very well, in a manner that speaks to both Christians and non-Christians alike without coming off as condemnation or a rebuke, but this one seemed to be the most fitting one I found:

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose
you this day whom ye will serve...
(Joshua 24:15)

Clearly we have a choice. If we choose to reject God, He accepts that. (He may not prefer it, but He allows it.) We can choose to serve God, or money, evil, ourselves, or just about anything else you can think of. In summary, God is not forceful.

Which brings me to my next point. God NEVER forces himself on anyone. He doesn't "make" anyone follow Him.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus stands at the door and knocks on our hearts, but he doesn't force himself in. It doesn't say that He knocks the door down and forces his way into our hearts. We can choose to reject him.

So this brings me to the root of this blog. If we, Christians, say we are followers of Christ, how hypocritical is it of us to force Christian principles on others? Yes, we Christians are called to be set apart and live our own lives according to the Word and the guidelines established by God for a life that is prosperous to both ourselves and others. We are called to live by the Word of God. Those who reject Christ aren't. Read those last two sentences over a few times and let that soak in.

So if we claim to follow the Word, the WHOLE word, then who are we to disobey God and take away the first, and I believe most powerful gift he has given us - free will? Who are we to represent God as someone who forces himself and his laws upon everyone, even those who reject him? We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Dictionary.com defines "ambassador":
1.a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative (ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary).
2.a diplomatic official of the highest rank sent by a government to represent it on a temporary mission, as for negotiating a treaty.
3.a diplomatic official serving as permanent head of a country's mission to the United Nations or some other international organization.
4.an authorized messenger or representative

So my summation is that an ambassador is a diplomatic person who is called to be a messenger or representative. We are representatives of God. And if we are, then we need to accurately represent him. I mean, an ambassador from any country "talks up" their country, pointing out its supreme good and contributions to the world as a whole, right? So that, in my opinion, should be a Christian's approach. We need to be diplomatic. And a diplomat tries to find common ground. They try and build bridges between one people group and another through understanding and kindness. Do you see what I'm getting at?

So how can it possibly be diplomatic to use force? (Hint: Its not!) Each and every person on this planet has different morals, ethics, values, and core beliefs. We cannot stuff everyone into the same box! Its not kind, its not diplomatic, its not exercising understanding or kindness, its sure as heck not building bridges, and based on all those discrepancies to the Word and heart of God...ITS NOT GODLY!

And here's another thought... How many people have EVER come to Christ through force? Who has ever changed their core beliefs and modes of operation out of force? Nobody I know! The only thing forceful tactics have ever caused with anyone I know is bitterness, resentment, and skepticism about God, and the desire to keep their distance. And I used to be one of those people before I was saved. I couldn't stand the people who would get all up in my face, telling me how to live my own life. And even after getting saved, I have experienced Christians in various churches who want to "stuff me in a box" through their condemnation and judgmental attitudes. Force DOES NOT WORK on ANYONE! It causes rejection, not acceptance.

So what the heck are you doing, Christian right? Why do you think that forcing the unwilling into submission to God's laws is going to make them embrace him? Do you honestly think that is going to work? Do you really think that restricting gay marriage is going to make a Christian out of a gay person? Do you really think that banning abortion is going to make more desperate women keep their babies? Do you really think rejecting the legalization of marijuana is going to keep people from using drugs? You personally may be against these things morally, and that's fine, but you cannot force others into your own moral code, especially in the name of God and/or creating or "preserving" a "Christian nation." You don't win souls that way.

We are all saved by GRACE, not by religious acts. We can restrict what people do, but that will do nothing to change their hearts and make them want to embrace God. On the contrary. It will paint God in a bad light, based on the message of his ambassadors; a message that God is forceful. Which he's not.

And I truly believe this shows a lack of our own faith, Christians, that God will do what he does best - draw people to him by the power of the Holy Spirit. I love, love, LOVE what Romans 2:4 has to say about it:

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

Technically, I know this verse is directed at unbelievers, but I think we can take a cue from this, too. If we aren't trusting God to use his kindness, not his force, to draw people to him, then maybe, just maybe, does that mean we Christians are in contempt of his kindness, tolerance, and patience? If we feel we have to "force" people into submission to him, then are we really trusting that he will do what he says he will? Are we really trusting that its his kindness that leads to repentence? Or are we trying to take matters into our own hands and through force, portray him as an unkind, intolerant, and impatient God who is incapable of winning our hearts without force? I think the Christian right is, unfortunately, doing the latter. And those who don't agree with the Christian right already view, based on the radical Christian right, that most Christians are one big collective group of people who are just that: unkind, intolerant, and impatient. Not the right message, Christians. Not at all.

So Christians, maybe others' morals make us uncomfortable. Maybe we don't like how others live their lives. But come on...suck it up and let people choose for themselves how they want to live! God has given us all that choice and that freedom. Leave moral issues off the ballot. Or if they do end up on a ballot, can we at least be authentic ambassadors and vote for the protection of God's oldest, greatest, and most fundamental gift to humanity: the right to free will? It may be uncomfortable for us, but as the saying goes, "what is right isn't always easy, and what is easy isn't always right."

If we want to see people live more godly lives, then we need to let God do what he does best, and not try and do his work for him. Let God deal with others' hearts and the way they live, not us. Especially when we're going about it all wrong and instead are repelling people. We need to live our lives by example. We need to be loving, caring, kind, accepting, understanding... We need to build bridges, not put up road block after road block.

So in summary, Christians (especially the Christian right), let's do more loving people into the Kingdom, and less forcing them out. Okay? Pretty, pretty please?