By Jeff Hood
“With every head bowed and every eye closed ….”
“Who would like to ask Jesus to be their personal savior and start walking with him tonight? Raise your hand and live forever!”
I used one eye to scan the room. The craziest lady in the room was waving her hand back and forth.
“Will all who raised your hand join us at the front of the sanctuary?”
I was nervous for her. After a few people went down, the crazy lady stood up and started shrieking in jubilation. Every butt in the room squeezed so tight that I just knew all the pew cushions would be gone when they stood up. People didn’t know what was going to happen next. The crazy lady just kept dancing her way down the aisle. In modern discourse, I actually think I’d call it holy twerking.
When she finally arrived down front, everyone just wanted it to stop. This was an orderly people. They didn’t want all this foolishness in church. The pastor insinuated that the crazy lady had some intellectual struggles. When someone asked whether she had the capacity to make a decision to follow Jesus, the pastor didn’t miss a beat:
“She has more sense than all of you. For in the last few minutes, she showed us that following Jesus takes place despite the institutional church not because of it. I encourage you to learn from her enthusiasm.”
The woman didn’t seem so crazy anymore. After she was unanimously received into the fellowship, the pastor asked if she would like to say anything to her new community. In a strong piercing voice, the lady said, “Follow Jesus!”
Follow Jesus? Order is our God. We’ve decided that following Jesus doesn’t fit with our institutional sensibilities. We would rather sit easily under our stained glass than have difficult conversations about racism. Keeping our music going is so much more important than having conversations about homophobia and transphobia. We take up collections and pray for the poor without ever talking about how we are doing very little to be in solidarity with the poor. Everybody wants to celebrate women a few days each year, but nobody wants to work to discuss transforming our sexist society.
Over and over again on the most important issues of our day, we simply don’t care about going further than a few words and some false empathy. If our services go well, if we see a little growth and we keep the lights on, nothing else matters. We want nothing to do with Jesus. We want to survive. Order is our God.
Fanny Crosby can help us with a theme song for our age:
Pass us now, O demanding Savior,
Don’t trouble us with any of their cries;
We are just trying to keep the lights on,
Please just pass us by.
Welcome to Christianity without Jesus — where we spend all of our time on issues that love settled long ago.
“We need these guns to protect us.” I couldn’t believe that one of the larger progressive churches in the South had armed guards. I couldn’t hold back. “Jesus doesn’t attend any church with guns.” Guns are the exact opposite of Jesus. Guns kill. Jesus gives life. Owning or carrying a gun is tantamount to turning your back on Jesus. Why would any church have to struggle with whether to allow guns in their churches?
“There are few more violent acts perpetuated against Christians of color than our consistent depictions of a white Jesus.” Speaking at a progressive church, I felt I had to say something about the white stained glass Jesus over my head. Friends, Jesus was never white. These depictions are racist. What would make us delay in removing depictions of a white Jesus?
“Jesus would have us protect our borders.” I was appalled when I heard the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Robert Jeffress, utter these words. Unfortunately, people in most churches live like they’re true. Can you imagine Jesus living comfortably behind the borders of the richest nation on the planet? We can’t follow Jesus without getting uncomfortable. Have you opened your church to housing immigrants yet?
“We are going slow on the LGBT issue.” It’s 2015. If you don’t celebrate LGBT people in your church, you don’t have Jesus. There is no more conversation to be had. There is only Jesus. Why do you continue to exclude those Jesus loves?
The music is playing. The pastor is begging. The aisle is open. Put down the order. Put down the budget. Put down the guns. Put down the white Jesus. Put down the borders. Put down the exclusion. Put down all that makes you comfortable. Put down Christianity without Jesus.
Don’t tarry. Don’t delay. Feel the pull of radicalism. This is the hour. This is the moment. Repent! Follow Jesus!