It turns out that I misunderstood what my conservative Christian friend meant when he said that, sometimes, a person needs to find a home before he finds a church (see my last post). I’ll still keep my last post up because I feel that I make good points, but I want to write a new post to interact with what my conservative Christian friend meant. I’m writing this post on Wednesday morning, but it will appear on Friday. That means that I may be away from my computer on Thursday and Friday, so I probably won’t be able to publish anyone’s comments for a few days.
My conservative Christian friend clarified what he meant in the following way: “It just makes more sense to go to a place of worship that believes the way we do. After all, we don’t expect a Buddhist to go to a Muslim house of worship or a Hindu to go to a Catholic church.” So, for my friend, finding a “home” before finding a church means arriving at Christian beliefs before you join a church. “Home” means the beliefs one chooses to accept, or the beliefs one finds that one has.
I identify with this, in a sense. Back when Anne Rice was leaving the church, Christian friends of mine were posting articles saying that she should stay in the church—that church is where a Christian grows. But I wondered: Why should she attend and support (with her time and money) an institution whose beliefs she does not accept? For her, the Catholic Church is homophobic, for example. Why should she support that institution and help perpetuate its influence, when she does not like what she believes to be the consequences of that influence? It just appears that some Christians want us to commit an act of terrorism against who we truly are, by going through motions in which we pretend to be something that we’re not.
But my conservative Christian friend would say that Anne Rice shouldn’t go to church, for her home is not in the beliefs of that church. I can picture conservative Christians then saying that it’s fine for Anne Rice not to go to church, just so long as she makes no claim to being a Christian, but I think that God should be the judge of who is a Christian and who is not, not conservative Christians. Why should they have a monopoly on the definition of Christian, anyway?
My conservative Christian friend highlights why I’d have a difficult time in a conservative Christian church: because I’d have a hard time hearing its message on a weekly basis, or supporting an institution that believes things that don’t sit well with me. If I were to listen to the manipulatory, dogmatic messages of conservative Christianity week in and week out, I would be sick to my stomach!
At the same time, I do find that I can listen to certain Christian conservative sermons on a weekly basis, without vomiting, that is. I would probably still enjoy going to Redeemer and listening to Tim Keller each week, if I lived in New York City. For my weekly quiet times, I listen to Calvary Chapel sermons. Why do I enjoy these Christian conservative messages? I think one reason is that they don’t always go with the Christian conservative flow. Tim Keller, Jon Courson, and others I enjoy hearing don’t proclaim a message of “God is a Republican,” for example. Back when Christians were lining up to see the Passion of the Christ, Tim Keller remarked that he had not seen the film. He wasn’t saying “You have to support this film, or you’re not a true believer,” or some nonsense like that.
Second, the conservative Christian preachers whom I enjoy hearing offer practical insights on how to live life. They’re not just about believing in certain doctrines, but they try to show how faith can lead to a positive life. When they talk about doctrines, they discuss them in terms of their practicality. Tim Keller, for instance, said that the doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is a community of love (or something like that), meaning that God didn’t create us because he needed us to compendate for his own loneliness or insecurity, for God received love before he made us—from the other members of the Godhead. That promotes love among believers, and it means that God loves us because he really loves us, not because God has something to gain from the deal.
And so, even though conservative Christianity is not my “home,” I can still identify with some things that conservative Christians have to say.