Monday, March 31, 2014

All I can say is I'm sorry

I am sorry, so very, very sorry, for my part in Christian Fundamentalism, in the new Evangelical brand. I am sorry for the part I have played in people turning away from Jesus, leaving their faith, or refusing to even investigate Christianity, because of things they hear in the news and on social media. I am sorry we have represented Jesus so badly in the world, I am sorry we are reacting in fear, instead of showing love. While I may not be the picture of fundamentalism, conservatism or the religious right, that is part of my history, and for that I apologize. I am sorry that we have abandoned the true religion that is described in James 1:26-27 If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.(NLT). I am sorry that we are trying to draw a moral line in the sand, instead of following Jesus greatest commands to love God and love others. I am sorry. 

I heard a Ugandan pastor on NPR today during BBC's the World and it made me weep for my part in what is happening in Uganda right now. While it was small, it is a part of the Evangelical movement in Uganda, and I worked with and befriended that same pastor. We went into public schools on state broadcasted television and across the country sharing the Good News of Christ. I do mean the Good News. At the time, that is what we were speaking. We were telling students, that they were loved by a gracious God, that they were freed from their sins by Jesus, that he was there for them. We also talked to them about abstinence and tried to encourage them to abstain from sex, as AIDS was a huge issue facing that country. I prayed with hundreds of teens to accept Christ. I saw what true religious persecution looked like, as some of those kids knew they would not be able to go home if they followed Jesus. Their family would reject them, they faced threat of physical harm, but they were willing to endure that for the love of Christ. It was an amazing and powerful time, and I had no idea that one of the pastors I was working with, and some of the youth I was speaking to, would be the leaders of the evangelical movement in Uganda, that pushed for the new anti gay laws there. I swear I had no idea. I didn't know that one day I would be watching that pastor on Tosh.0 describing gay sex acts in detail to prove how corrupt he thinks homosexuals are. I had no idea I would hear him on the radio celebrating laws that persecute people because of how they identify their sexuality. I am sorry, I am sorry I supported his beginnings and Uganda's beginnings as an evangelical nation, if this is what it has turned into. I wanted to see God's grace touch the people there. I wanted to see them value and love each other as God does. I wanted them to protect their women and children better, to care for one another, to find peace and joy, and healing after decades of war and destruction.

I had no idea, that people who were actually persecuted for their beliefs would come into power, and use that power to persecute others for who they are, I know that is naive. They were once divided from their families, and now they are asking families to turn in their gay children, friends and neighbors, or face prosecution themselves. I don't understand where the grace that we talked about, that we prayed they would receive went. I am sorry I didn't communicate the scope and importance of Jesus love for ALL people.

I am sorry for the things I have done here in my own country as well in the name of Jesus, that had nothing to do with Jesus focus on changing people's lives with grace and mercy. I am sorry that my people swiftly canceled their sponsorships of the world's neediest children because World Vision, temporarily decided to use fair and equitable hiring practices. I am sorry that instead of working hard to help people in need, we are working hard to make our voices heard. I am sorry that we are reacting defensively and feel as if we are persecuted and abused. I am sorry that we aren't trusting that God is working in the midst of us. Jesus said that the persecuted are blessed, that they should react by turning the other cheek, and with gentle words and love, yet we are choosing to react at our supposed persecution with anger, hate and malice. I am sorry.

 I want so badly to walk away from it all, but I can't. I can't. The church is my home, these are my roots, I am called to serve in the context of these people, my people. As ugly as we may seem, there is great beauty in our midst I swear, just as there is vast, amazing beauty in the people and land of Uganda. There is beauty in the people of the church caring and supporting one another through the worst of times, gathering around people who are hurting. There is beauty in the healing that happens when people pray for, reach out to, and work to bring help to those in need. There is beauty in teaching kids to look outside of themselves and put serving others first. There is beauty in reminding people that they are created by a loving God, and have value and purpose. There is beauty in proclaiming and practicing forgiveness. There is beauty in faith, in finding peace in the chaos and an anchor of hope in the storms of life. There is even beauty in correction and being challenged to live differently, to live better. There is so much beauty in a bunch of damaged and broken people struggling to work together to bring hope and healing to a damaged world. 

So I will do my best to make up for my part in the mess of Evangelicalism. I will try to love more, and better. I will try to be slow to speak and quick to listen, to put love first. I will as Rachel Held Evan said, "stop raging war and start washing feet".

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