God punished me today by making my phone die in church so I couldn't check my fantasy scores, and then unleashing Vernon Davis and the San Francisco defense against me.
But while forced to listen, my pastor said some really interesting things. They made me think. Hopefully I paraphrase them right:
- If you grew up churchy like me, you've heard something about accepting Jesus as your "Personal Savior" a million times. He said that term is nowhere to be found in the Bible. And that North American society is very individualistic, and this often reflects in how we practice our religion.
- That legislating morality is not supported by scripture, nor has it worked in history. You can force a person to change their habits, and they might change outwardly to meet expectations, but if they don't change their heart, they haven't changed.
I certainly agree that things like Prohibition, or a lot of our current drug policy, or the Spanish Inquisition don't really work that well.
- That Christians get caught up on certain issues politically, at the expense of much of the rest of Jesus' teachings. I very much agree with that.
As a young holy warrior on the front-lines of the culture wars, I worked hard to get Bush elected twice. I'm not sure what it was that made me realize that Jesus probably didn't want, or even care about, Republican majorities. But somewhere along the line I came to realize that Jesus didn't say a word about gay marriage and abortion, and a whole lot about the poor and the sick.
As I've grown older I've found Christianity and the Church harder and harder to accept. I've seen people who follow Christ do things I found morally reprehensible in public, in private, and politically. If Christianity is so transforming, why aren't Christians notably kinder, more loving, more giving?
I struggle with those questions still. But I suppose its unfair to blame Jesus all who claim Him. His message was and is so revolutionary, and darn hard to follow. He didn't care one lick about money, the government, or even Himself. Love your enemies? Pray for those who persecute you? If someone steals from you, offer them more? Crazy talk, and impossible to follow if you're an American it seems.
And my pastor is right. The only really way to change people is to change their hearts. You can pass laws. You can post antagonizing political posts on Facebook. You can force them at gun point, but none of that matters. You have to change hearts.