Christianity Needs a Preacher

I once want­ed to become a preacher.

I believed so fer­vent­ly in the Bible that the thought could­n’t escape me that the more I learned about it, the more I should share what I learn with oth­ers. It felt only nat­ur­al. (Or super­nat­ur­al, as it were.)

My church gave me a few oppor­tu­ni­ties to preach, and I can­not lie, it was fun. I knew what to say to get shouts of “amen!” and “preach!” from the pews, and when up there, my usu­al fear of pub­lic speak­ing seemed to fade completely.

Those oppor­tu­ni­ties came when I was a fair­ly cook­ie-cut­ter Bap­tist fun­da­men­tal­ist. I stuck to the doc­trine and expres­sions and talk­ing points that were oh so very famil­iar to the listeners.

I preached, but I did­n’t challenge.

I did­n’t chal­lenge because I was­n’t challenged.

Bap­tist fun­da­men­tal­ists, not unlike so very many oth­er sects of Chris­tian­i­ty, have a groove into which most of their adher­ents can fit into with­out caus­ing much friction.

Far too close­ly to the end of my life as a Chris­t­ian, though, I learned that Chris­tian­i­ty can­not exist in a fric­tion­less envi­ron­ment, that Chris­tian­i­ty must shat­ter the grooves so many peo­ple fit snug­ly into, upend­ing not just world­views but whole lives, redefin­ing the fates of its adher­ents in such a way that, frankly, I had nev­er seen before.

I nev­er had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to preach this rad­i­cal new (ancient) form of Chris­tian­i­ty. My faith was swal­lowed up by knowl­edge, and so I cast off the ves­tiges of Christianity.

Part of me regrets that decision. 

I sit on the out­side now, with no church to call my own, but the knowl­edge I gained from the lat­ter days of my faith occu­pies so very much of my mind. Though my, if I can call it this, “spir­i­tu­al” focus now rests upon advo­cat­ing for sec­u­lar­i­ty, I find it frus­trat­ing to watch as pro­fessed Chris­tians make a pro­fane show of their religion.

Like a bull in a chi­na shop who has no idea where he is or what to do now that he’s there, the Chris­t­ian is in the world but has no clue how they should be behav­ing. Like the bull, when they do act, it is so often destruc­tive­ly, yet their myopic under­stand­ing of their own reli­gion pre­vents them from prop­er­ly see­ing the results of their action.

I speak up, per­haps maybe too often than I should, on the clos­est thing I have to a pul­pit, my Face­book account. I inject my under­stand­ing of core Chris­t­ian prax­is into posts when I can, though by now I’m fair­ly cer­tain that for most of my text posts, the only folks read­ing along are those who are like-mind­ed with me on at least a cou­ple major issues.

Chris­tian­i­ty, at best, is lost, with hun­dreds of mil­lions of adher­ents at any giv­en time going about their day, unaware of the dam­age their ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty causes.

Con­sid­er briefly the life of a Chris­t­ian in the Bible. Such a per­son is called to pick up their cross, indi­cat­ing that their life will be spent in suf­fer­ing, and to die to them­selves, indi­cat­ing that their own ego is sec­ondary to not only God but also to every oth­er per­son whom they meet.

Per­son­al pos­ses­sions are freely sold so that oth­ers are not left to go hun­gry or home­less or thirsty or what­ev­er else.

Traits such as meek­ness, humil­i­ty, mod­esty, char­i­ty, and for­give­ness should over­flow from such a per­son­’s life, no mat­ter the cost to them­selves. Their life is a liv­ing sac­ri­fice, done in the name of God but for the ben­e­fit of every­one around them.

They go out of their way, they go the extra mile, they live for others.

The entire­ty of the reli­gion is rad­i­cal, and real­ly, is that any sur­prise? The reli­gion has its ori­gins in ancients who had no prob­lem slic­ing off the fore­skins of their ene­mies in order to prove a point! With time, though, the prac­tices required of believ­ers became com­pas­sion, sac­ri­fice, and an upend­ing of the soci­etal norms which we take for granted.

It’s a mes­sage which needs preached.

If Chris­tians take their own reli­gion seri­ous­ly and if they wish for those on the out­side to take them more seri­ous­ly, then they must aban­don the non­sense reli­gion prac­ticed by Chris­ten­dom at large.

A Chris­tian­i­ty prac­ticed bib­li­cal­ly would poten­tial­ly cause far less harm than the bas­tardiza­tion to which most adhere.

Imag­ine no homo­pho­bia, no land and resources spent on church build­ings, no dis­rup­tive involve­ment in gov­ern­ment… Imag­ine a huge swath of soci­ety whose lives are com­mit­ted to reduc­ing suf­fer­ing, not just as an occa­sion­al activ­i­ty but as a rai­son d’être.

Chris­tian­i­ty has a huge amount of untapped poten­tial for actu­al, demon­stra­ble good in this world, yet the sys­tem is weight­ed down under the bur­den of so much garbage. Rather than sub­vert­ing the world’s sys­tems to exem­pli­fy a bet­ter path, Chris­tian­i­ty today offers the same as what we already have, just pack­aged with a cross (see the Chris­t­ian music indus­try for a notable exam­ple of this). Rather than chal­leng­ing adher­ents to die to them­selves, preach­ers use clever allit­er­a­tion to tick­le ears or rein­force the same pow­er­less orthodoxies.

As it is writ­ten in the Epis­tle of James, faith with­out works is dead.

I know so many peo­ple who claim to believe, but for the most part, I don’t believe that any of them do because, well, their lives aren’t so dis­sim­i­lar from mine, an avowed athe­ist and oppos­er of reli­gious dog­ma. Rather than feed the hun­gry, they ensure that not only do they have enough to eat but that it’s not genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied or carb-free or what­ev­er else. Rather than clothe the naked, they wear design­er labels. They remod­el their own homes while so many go home­less. There is no pow­er, no pas­sion in the faith which they claim to profess.

They need a preach­er, or per­haps more specif­i­cal­ly, they need an apos­tle-like fig­ure to reign in many church­es’ worth of believ­ers at once, call­ing them author­i­ta­tive­ly back to a Chris­tian­i­ty which at least minute­ly resem­bles the bib­li­cal examples.

Is such a rad­i­cal move­ment even pos­si­ble any more in our world of seem­ing­ly increas­ing­ly polar­ized opin­ions? What would it take to ignite that spark?

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Rick Beckman