I know there are those who think that anything written by someone who doesn’t quite see eye to eye on each minute detail of scriptural interpretation isn’t worth reading, and that’s too bad considering they probably don’t have all of those details right either.  But I tend to think of it this way.  The most visible Christians are the ones who set the standards by which we are all judged, because they are the ones who are seen, and they provide the substance by which Christianity in America is interpreted.  So who is to blame if it seems that society at large doesn’t have the right perspective? 

If you can get beyond your own biases in terms of what you think is “fair and balanced” (if I can use that expression) and realize that just because something doesn’t slant your way, doesn’t mean that it is biased against you, you’ll get a lot out of this piece by John Shore from the Huffington Post.  Don’t read too much into it, or try to microanalyze it by applying the detailed, intricate, finite quirks of your own interpretation of the Bible and the practice of your faith to your analysis because you will only brush by the point Shore is trying to make.  Take it at face value, it’s not a theological piece, and learn something about your own faith from it. 

Shore says, “But the bottom line is it’s absolutely impossible to talk someone who isn’t a Christian into becoming one; in fact, more than anything else it’s likely to push the non-Christian further from God.”  And that statement is pretty theologically and biblically estute, don’t you think?  Somehow, in the culture of modern American “evangelicalism”, we have the idea that a systematic verbal “presentation of the gospel” will somehow lead to a sinner praying a prescribed prayer that opens up the gates of eternity to him like a magic key.  If we can get them to say those magic words, then we can count that in our record of personal accomplishments, and it can be included in the number of “conversions” that are reported by our church.  The Bible, however, makes it clear that conversion is a matter that requires the very spiritual power of God himself, and that it is not something that is within the power of any human to bring about.  The role that an individual Christian may play in the process, therefore, is going to be a passive one, not an aggressive one, and a good “witness training” program should probably teach Christians how to shut up, sit down, and get out of the way.  Could it be that the thousands of inactive, non-resident “members” most churches carry on their rolls represent people who were converted by the soundness of a good witness training “program,” but never actually experienced spiritual transformation? 

I would suggest that you follow up by reading some passages from the early parts of the Sermon on the Mount.  Don’t get into John or Paul or Peter in your devotional reading of scripture after reading this.  Go to the very words and teachings of Jesus which are, after all, the core essence of the Christian faith, and let his words sink in after you read this.  It might be a little bit of a stretch to ask you to think about having an open mind, because it seems like that’s a stretch for many Christians these days, even when it comes to the very words of Jesus himself.  But give it a try.


About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

5 responses

  1. Tom says:

    After reading John Shore’s article in the Huffington Post, I followed up on Shore and discovered he is very liberal on homosexuality. Liberal interpreters of the Bible will love his views, but those of us “fundamentalist” believers see the great danger in his theology. It was sad to read the comments. The issue of homosexuality is at the heart of current cultural attempts to erode the Bible as trustworthy and Truth without error. Without Truth there is no foundation for morality except that which man, with devil’s help, devises. From liberal theology within the “church” to the world outside there is a massive attempt to deny the Truth. The NEA now openly supports homosexuality; television programs and the entertainment industry are currently filled with storylines that support homosexuality; and of course not a day goes by without politicians, including the President, running to support the homosexual agenda. We are to put on the full armor to fight the devil’s schemes. Believers “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” If a believer does not put on the belt of truth there is no way he will be able to stand and fight the lies and illusion that we all face each day.

  2. Micah says:

    Wow, Tom, that’s amazing. In just a few sentences you dissolved the Christian faith into an agenda, slapped a “liberal” label on the author of something with which you disagree, proclaimed that homosexuality is just a scheme to erode your agenda, and your view of scripture without any substantiation whatsoever, got in a backhanded slam at the President and the NEA, proclaimed yourself as a defender of the truth and cast yourself in the role of assailed victim because of it. What person, in the greatest need of redemption, would ever see that there was any hope in your religion to find it?

  3. Lee says:

    If you’ll re-read the comments I placed here regarding the manner in which I suggested approaching this piece, it may help put things in perspective for you. When someone writes something about Christianity and it gets put in the Huffington Post, it sheds some perspective on whatever it is addressing. I’ll agree that Tom did manage to work in a lot of agenda-driven points in a relatively short comment, and his response inadvertently makes Shore’s point for him. It has become easy to put a label on someone and then dismiss everything they have to say, in spite of the fact that a label is nothing more than a personal opinion which enables someone to be lazy and not deal with a pertinent issue. That’s something we learn from Ann Coulter, not from Jesus.

    Jesus did some things that most American Christians, especially those who are either more affluent or more conservative, have trouble figuring out. He pulled up a chair and sat down at a dinner table with tax collectors and sinners, and in fact, invited himself over to a particularly hard bitten tax collector’s home. He repeatedly violated established religious orthodoxy by healing on the Sabbath, including one incident following a time when the Pharisees had just called his disciples down for harvesting and eating a few grain heads on the Sabbath. Jesus’ compassion and love for humanity pushed him to the use of the miraculous to relieve suffering and pain, in one case so frustrating the Pharisees that they expelled the one who was healed from the synagogue. I don’t think it mattered to him, though.

    Agenda-driven Christianity is about control, and accumulation of resources. Though Jesus never spoke in terms of an “us believers versus them sinners” paradigm, that’s what has developed among Christians. Jesus called us to follow his example, be salt and light to the world, and testify to the presence and power of his grace. When Peter raised his sword in the garden, and sliced off the ear of the high priest’s servant in “defending the truth,” Jesus rebuked him, healed the servant, and sent Peter in a different direction. God doesn’t need us to defend his truth against its enemies. Jesus told us to love our enemies, and pray for them.

    There, but for the grace of God, go I.

  4. Jack Matthews says:

    When I look at the New Testament and its descriptions of the early church, I wonder if we will ever get back to being what it once was. There’s a big difference between taking a stand for something, and living it out in your life. I’ve found out exactly why we need grace when I started out to live my life according to my faith.

    Shore is right on target about a lot of things related to the church and its members living out their faith. I don’t see that there is any instruction to believers to come up with an “us” versus “them” mentality to separate the redeemed sinners from the unredeemed sinners. Faith isn’t about being against things because Christians should be against them. The scripture is pretty clear that judgement is not to be applied to those outside the church.

    We had a man who visited our church some time back, who was quiet and reserved, and hard to get to know. He became part of a small group, came to Bible study and worship, and even showed up for a few men’s prayer breakfasts. I think he was testing the waters to see if our church was a place he could invest himself, open himself up, and get some help working on something in his life that was certainly causing him grief. I suspected he was struggling with homosexuality, though I never knew that for sure. For some reason, he never felt comfortable enough to confide in anyone, and sensed that he wouldn’t be able to be open in our fellowship, which troubled me greatly. I hope we learned something from the experience.

  5. Lee: This is so good that I twittered the link to the article and placed on Facebook. Good serious thinking.