As you may know if you are listeners to the Christ Enlight podcast – and if you’re not, you are missing some fantastic programming – I have been listening to Darin Hufford’s excelent podcast, “Into the Wild.” Darin comes out of the Assemblies of God tradition, which is the white folks’ Pentacostal Church. Before you get in a uproar over that characterization, you should know that the original Pentacostal movement was racially integrated, but eventually the while folk left and formed the Assembly of God – but, I digress. The megachurch phenomenon has both Pentacostal and Evangelical manifestations, and they are not the same – although they share many things in common. One of the things they share in common is the practice of members policing one another, for lack of a better word, in matters of faith and belief. This is something that those of us who come out of mainline traditions really haven’t experienced, and the more I learn about it the more shocked I am that anyone would tolerate it!
All the while claiming to be in search of biblically accurate belief, these self appointed belief police (known informally as “Christians” by virtue of their having prayed the non-biblical “sinners prayer”) monitor the beliefs and practices of other “Christians” for doctrinal and biblical purity. The belief police seem to have developed the kind of clout that hasn’t been seen since the Salem witch trials. With all the fairness of a lawyer asking a witness, “Have you stopped beating your wife?” these pin heads can smear anyone they choose with no more evidence than announcing that something someone wrote has “offended” them.
What I can’t begin to understand is why anyone would tolerate this behavior. These people are no different than the people in John 8 who dragged the woman they set up and caught in adultery before Jesus for judgment. If you recall the story, the men who “caught” this woman in adultery (which would have required them either peeping through the window or sending a man to seduce her, or both) presented her to Jesus and asked him to pass judgment on her. He refused. There is no reason to believe he would respond any differently to contemporary belief police, yet they seem to wield tremendous power in conservative circles. Ironically, these same believers would be very critical of the Sacrament of Confession on the basis that it involves human beings (clergy) speaking on behalf of God!
Once again, we have an example of the very human, but very unhealthy, need to define in groups and out groups manifesting itself in the Church. Once again, we see people being hurt by those who are so insecure that they need to marginalize others to reassure themselves that they are acceptable in the eyes of God.
How tragic, and how completely avoidable because the truth is that none of us can ever be separated from the Love of God. All of the wasted energy and all of the destruction that results from this behavior has nothing to do with God and everything to do with human insecurity.
Yet another piece of evidence that shows how very urgently our message is needed!