(This is the second part of a series on Streamlining in which I'm discussing the idea of our having streamlined the humanity out of Christianity.")
What exactly do I mean when I refer to "humanity" in this context? I mean the best parts of being "truly human." I mean the "humane" part of us that is kind and wants to reduce suffering of any kind. I mean the part of us that feels with emotion and empathizes with others. I mean the part of us that God originally created in His image and that Christ felt worth sacrificing Himself for. In contrast, the part of us that wants to make and apply rules, to judge, to approach relationships mechanically (robotically) is what we may have streamlined our Christianity down to.
Why do I believe that we have streamlined the humanity out of Christianity? I believe that divorce statistics within the Christian community bear out the idea that, as a group, we are losing our humanity. Barna Research Group's latest data shows current US divorce rates among "Christians" no lower than 21% and up to 34% for "non-denominational" Christian groups. Why am I tying marriage and divorce into the conversation regarding humanity in the Christian community? Because I believe that marriage is a very important (maybe THE MOST important) gauge of man's ability to be kind, to feel with emotion, to empathize and sacrifice himself for another. If a man is not willing to do this for his wife, then his movement towards being like Christ is severly hampered.
I write with some experience with this because around seven years ago, I was closer to divorce than I want to think about. I believe my own experience to be fairly commonplace in the Christian community. My own personal streamlining looked like this:
- I took a cerebral/intellectual/mechanical approach to Christianity.
- The rules and expectations that I superimposed on others reflected how I thought God viewed the world.
- I judged others (including God) based on those rules and expectations. As I critically examine my attitudes of the past, if their lives were messy, chaotic, undisciplined and/or impoverished, I judged harshly. My own shortcomings were conveniently overlooked.
- I believed (as I was taught by the Christian community) that feelings and emotions were fleeting and could not and should not be trusted.
- I reduced my own Christianity down to a mirror of the moral/political/patriotic beliefs of the conservative (fundamentalist, get it?) Christian media.
- The way in which Scripture was supposed to be interpreted that I (and others like me) had distilled was the only possible way that they could or should be interpreted. Scripture and Truth were more of a hammer than a salve.
- The hypocrisy of a failing family life and marriage and raising my hands while singing praise songs at Sunday church service was lost on me.
Gratefully, God has healed my marriage to the point that Gwen and I minister to other couples in crisis. But, what I see in that capacity is, many times, disheartening. We men, who call ourselves little Christs, unwilling and/or unable to love our wives like Christ loved the church. It is truly a sign that we have streamlined the humanity out of Christianity. But, it doesn't have to be that way. If this is what would be considered "post-modern" or "emergent," then I guess you'd have to count me in.
Your ally in the pursuit of Christlikeness (giving credit where credit is due, a term I borrowed from my good friend Dave Taylor)