Recently I have been reminded of the–still very prevalent in some places–tendency toward an unwritten set of evangelical traditions.
Naturally, there is the usual ardent devotion to a broad patriotic ideal in God-and-country evangelicalism. But also there is a sense in which it is expected that no one will do or say anything that shows that they might have noticed the presence of a world beyond the borders of evangelical thought.
Years ago, I was (slightly) physically threatened by an 11th grader in my classroom at a Christian school for asking the class whether they thought Jesus was pretending or really did not know who touched Him when He asked, “Who touched Me?” Asking the question was enough to freak her out.
Similarly, I recently found that telling a group of Christian seventeen-year-olds that the Lord Jesus Christ is a romantic and sexual being, that in His life on earth He had normal human sexuality, and that the reality of which our current experience of human sexuality is merely a picture will go on for eternity in the romantic relationship between Christ and His bride–saying these things was too weird for these students. Apparently.
I didn’t say anything that is not said by the likes of C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller or John Piper, but it was received as if I were way out there on the semi-heretical fringe. I found out, in fact, that I was reported to have said such outlandish things as “Jesus intends to have sex with us in heaven,” and “Jesus was sexually active in His life on earth.”
But what I find most troubling in all of this is not that people so carelessly attend to what I actually say, nor that they so easily ascribe to me the wildest and stupidest statements. What troubles me is that, in the circles where these things happen, these folks actually think they are theologically well-rounded. Yet they never allow themselves to encounter anything beyond the very narrow confines of a received evangelical base. And that base is so simplistic and shallow, it could hardly be expected to serve the Lord or people in any but the tiniest ways. If it can’t be summed up in a 4 minute song on the Fish (the name of the local Christian pop radio station), it is too radical for many folks.
Lord, how can we serve You in this world, if we can’t even think?