Just about every Christian I know has experienced, at some point or another, the pushback from old-school, stuck-in-their-ways, dead, dry, “religious” church.
If you are one of the very few who have not, it simply means you haven’t been a Christian long enough. Rest assured, it’s coming. Therefore, let me issue a warning:
Do not walk into these sterile worship environments and try to rock the boat. You will swiftly be met with the “left foot of fellowship.”
You know what I mean. We’ve watched it our entire Christian lives.
Someone in a church service gets a little too carried away and a hand gets raised, or a shout gets lifted, a tongue gets spoken, or a body falls in the floor. A guitar gets played or the youth group starts jumping up and down in the altars.
Then, all Hades breaks loose.
The parishioners respond with calls for “order” and “decency,” decrying anything that violates the comfortable, self-serving, lukewarm church they are accustomed to. Private meetings are held, passive-aggressive social media posts get launched, and the pastor is threatened with his job.
This experience is routinely identified as a “religious spirit” at work. A Pharisaical-type notion that, just as the religous leaders in Jesus’ day rejected God’s ‘new’ thing, so these modern-day pharisees reject new expressions of love and devotion to the Father.
(Personally, I tend to recoil at the relentless labeling of this or that “spirit.” However, for the sake of understanding, I’ll continue to use the term).
However, there is a new face to the “religious spirit,” one that is a bit more challenging to notice.
The Pharisaical attitude I’m addressing does not reject fresh worship expressions.
Instead, it rejects fresh theological perspective.
I’m not totally sure why, but the evangelical church seems vehemently opposed to new ideas.
Emphasis on the word “vehemently.”
And no, this is not because of some undying commitment to “the gospel,” any more than when traditional worshippers look at passionate, expressive praise with scorn and disdain in a feigned commitment to “order.”
I can’t, for the life of me, reconcile statements of “wanting to go deeper” or “learn more theology,” only for one person to excoriate another at the mere mention of a perspective that veers ever-so-slightly from the evangelical party line. This contradiction is a circle I cannot square.
We continually fail to recognize that truth is not a destination, it is a highway; a never-ending question for greater and greater discovery into the mind and ways of God.
Instead, we prefer to view it as a place where we arrive – comfortable and content in our “knowledge” of the truth while the rest of the poor, unfortunate souls grope about in the dark and futilely attempt to ascertain some modicum of revelation. If they would only listen to us, then we could impart our ageless theological wisdom into their impoverished understandings, quaint and smug as we fancy ourselves the oracles of God.
What we haven’t told them is that our “truth” was not hard-earned or fought for. Instead, it was inherited through tradition, through Christian television, or forged in the fiery crucible of a Google search.
Three clicks and voila! we’re enlightened.
If someone dare present an alternative view than what our twenty minutes of Wikipedia “research” uncovered, then shouts of “Crucify him!” are certainly in order.
Same spirit, different face.
We can, we must, do better.
We have to learn to play gracefully with other ideas – to entertain a perspective but not always embrace it.
Simply put, we have to grow up.
We have to mature as thinkers, as Christians.
The life of devotion is not only about the heart, it’s also about the mind.
May we go deeper in both.