As a pastor, I do a fair amount of driving. While I’m driving I often scan the radio until I hit something I might enjoy listening to. Sometimes I’ll stop when something interesting catches my attention. Usually it’s some kind of preaching – I just have to listen to hear what really bad theology is being preached to the masses. Yes, it’s usually really bad theology. Often I wonder how so much really bad theology gets preached so often.
As I’ve been driving along this week, I’ve heard plenty theology that fits into the “smack my forehead, you’ve got to kidding me, it doesn’t say that, unless you twist the scripture and take it out of context”. In other words, some not so great theology.
I’ve also heard some Christian music which, while catchy and easy to sing along with and leaves us thinking we are singing some great theology is actually again, not great theology.
Does this mean I’m interested in purifying the radio so everyone agrees with me. No, not really. That will never happen. And frankly, in the long run, I don’t think I need to. Really bad theology has a way of driving people away eventually. They usually get tired and exhausted, or feel judged to the point of being pushed away. It’s like a bad relationship – eventually the person comes to their senses and leaves, or at least that’s the hope.
One song in particular is “I’m not home yet” by Building 429. It’s a catchy tune. I even find myself singing along to it sometimes, until my inner Lutheran catches me and reminds me that the song is really about Christian escapism – which is really bad theology.
Then I start to have a conversation with the song. It usually goes something like this.
Song: “All I know is I’m not home yet.”
Me: Yes you are. Why else would Jesus have come to us here on earth and save us. John 3:16 says “for God so loved the world…” If God so loves the world, then how does it makes sense that we’re trying to leave it? Revelation 21 talks about God coming down to earth to dwell with creation – to restore and renew creation. The Gospels each tell their own version of the fact that Jesus, God incarnate, became flesh and dwelt among us. God comes to us here in creation, not pulling us away from creation. The direction is always God coming to us where we are – not pulling us away to escape creation!
Song: “This is not where I belong.”
Me: Didn’t you just hear what I said? It’s like I’m talking to a wall…
And on the song goes, and usually at this point I end up hitting the scan button or popping in a CD (Side note: Yes, I go old school – my 2001 PT Cruiser pre-dates vehicles being able to play an iPod. That’s mostly because the first ipod didn’t come out until Oct. 2001.)
The point here is that there is strand of Christianity, mostly here in the US, that preaches a message of Christian escapism – that we are destined for some kind of escape from God’s creation. Often this theology gets wrapped up in the Rapture theology. As I’ve written before – Rapture theology is total BS and frankly dangerous. If you want a good resource on this, I highly recommend Barbara Rossing’s book – “The Rapture Exposed.” It’s an excellent book that rips the Rapture apart at the seems and shows it for what it is – really bad theology. It’s dangerous theology because it essentially says that we aren’t stewards of creation – it’s all going to be destroyed anyway so why bother. Oh and war – no biggie, remember, all the unsaved will be killed by God and the earth will be ravaged, so why bother. Makes for great foreign policy, environmental stewardship, and more, doesn’t it?
Here’s the thing – we aren’t called to sit around and wait for Jesus to return and whisk us away to some magical place while God throws a temper tantrum on earth and goes all nuclear on everyone else. That’s not biblical and it contradicts everything we know about God in the Bible.
Here’s the dirty little secret no one likes to talk about – There’s a reason why Christian escapism is mostly found in the US and not in other parts of the world. We have many more churches here that have no governing authority over them at all. I’m not talking about a government agency here. I’m talking about some kind of church hierarchy that can reign in really bad theology before it causes problems – meaning these churches can preach whatever they want without anyone holding up a stop sign and asking people to discern if what is being preached is actually accurate or biblical.
Instead we are called to respond to what God has done for us and is doing to and with us – making us a part of God’s family and calling on us to participate in the unfolding of the kingdom of God right now, here on earth. We’re called on to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick and imprisoned, to go and make disciples. If God wanted to whisk us away, then why on earth would Jesus command us to do these things? You’d think it would make more sense for God to say “screw it, I’m done with this earth place. Hang tight, I’ll be coming real soon. And when I do, I’ll be really pissed off, so don’t rub me the wrong way or else! But hey, good news, I’m saving your sorry ass…but those other schmucks are screwed. Just wait until you see what I have in store for them! Haha!”
If we are to escape from anything, I’d say that we should escape from Christian escapism.