We have participated in a faith that seems to think Revelation is absolutely clear, but the Sermon on the Mount is fuzzy and needs charts and graphs to figure out.
BY LINDSAY BRUEHL
I spent this Advent contemplating what it really means to repent. The world is on fire, and I am hearing so many Christians saying, “Live in peace with everyone.” We want the joy without addressing the pain — and sometimes we label righteous anger as outrage. It feels like too much to bear, I get it.
It is easy to get mad at the absolute crazy but fail to see how we are complicit in what led to the craziness. I would not understand this if I hadn’t gone through my own dark night. I was mad at those who hurt us, but when I went deep into my pain I noticed our own complicity had led to what happened. That is the hard part, facing our own darkness.
I want to talk about Jerry Falwell Jr. He was recently interviewed by the Washington Post, and what he said is absolutely horrifying. I encourage you to read it, because while it seems so far out there — and the absolute opposite of anything Jesus ever said — we have on some scale participated in this narrative.
It is not uncommon to hear people say our faith is unrealistic in public life. We have spiritualized it for the next life so we don’t really have to carry the cross Jesus invited us to carry. We have participated in a faith that seems to think Revelation is absolutely clear, but the Sermon on the Mount is fuzzy and needs charts and graphs to figure out.
The reason people are entertained by people like Falwell Jr. (and his father) is because what they say and do is interesting — even if terrifying. The rest of us “good” Christians have been largely absent from the public sphere and are not telling an interesting story at all. That is why no one is listening.
Jesus’ life was a counter-narrative to Caesar. Jesus was mostly funded by women. He had no money, but he caught the attention of the powerful. He was telling a story people wanted to hear — except the powerful who were going to lose. Zaccheus is a great example in the Bible of someone who had been participating in empire economics but wanted to change. Repentance is clearly shown in that story; he was going to change and pay back what he had cheated people by giving it back fourfold. He showed a heart that was transformed by the gospel. Repentance is a changed heart and life.
Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz wrote about setting up a confessional on the Reed College campus where most are hostile to Christians because of how we have treated them. But the catch was this wouldn’t be a place for outsiders to come confess their sins. Instead, the Christians were going to confess their own sins against the nonbelievers — how unloving they have been, their bitterness, the crusades, televangelists. It was really powerful, and the response he got was similar to what I am hearing from our skeptical friends who are seeing what’s happening at Wilshire.
People know Jesus is better than the story we have told but don’t want to participate with Christians because we have been exclusionary — and we reject wonder. Being stuck in time is killing our imagination, joy and wonder. The world is looking to us to humble ourselves and repent for what we have created. We were warned and did not listen.
The world really does want to see Jesus and believe this world matters too. It isn’t some escapism to another world. We can all flourish and participate in this world God invited us to co-create together.