I said that thing yesterday about God wanting us to defend Him, but I'm not sure I really think that. Or I'm not really sure what I think about it. Or maybe how I think it. That was the line that jumped out at me the most startlingly when I read that quote the other day--that sort of "does God really need you to defend Him?" speech of Job's. And I was thinking how Christians throughout history have, in various ways, thought it was their job to defend God. It seems like usually, the more strongly convinced we are that that's what we're supposed to do, the less we act like Him. I'm kind of sick of the prevailing worldview that any attempt on the part of Christians to hold definite beliefs and stick to them is wrong and intolerant. It does get old after a while. Plus I don't think it's accurate. On the other hand, I'm having a little trouble thinking of any really defensive stances taken by the Christian community that have been very effective.
Jesus wasn't defensive. He told it like it was, unflinchingly; there wasn't any tiptoeing or euphemising with that guy. The Pharisees, who seemed (with few exceptions) to be always arguing with Him, were the ones trying to defend God, just like Job's friends, blabbing on and on about right and wrong and how holy and majestic God was. Jesus loved people and healed people and told them to stop sinning. I'll bet they did, too, but not because He got nit-picky about it, like the Pharisees seem to have. My guess is they figured out what their sins were without being told, and wanted to stop doing them, because here was God, right with them, not defending Himself, but just being Himself. And since we were made in the image of God, and Jesus showed us what God looks like, it would make sense that we would be most ourselves when we act most like Him. But doing that feels like walking on water, a rather precarious proposition, and it's easier just to talk. Well, for me it is, anyway.
So here's this idea I had the other week. There was supposed to be this rally in July for a rather hot-topic issue here in this state, although the vote that was supposed to happen that day never did, so I don't know what happened to the rally. Anyway, I was invited (along with several others) to go to this rally, but I didn't. And it wasn't because I don't care about the issue. I do, and I have a fairly strong opinion about it. But rallies tend to be so black-and-white, and there are people on other side of the issue. As in, really all this stuff is about people, not issues. And some of these people who think about this differently are specific people whom I know and care about. You may even be reading this blog. (If so, we may need to get together and talk after this so I can assure you I really do care about you and am not making value-judgments about you yourself--I'm having a little trouble writing this, it's just that I need an example to explain my idea.)
I imagined going to this rally (or some other rally about some other issue with people behind it) and somehow, randomly, even though I never end up in crowd-shots at Red Sox games or any other public event, getting on camera and showing up in some newspaper or on TV, and one of my friends seeing it. I'm not afraid of my friends, and I'm not afraid of my views on the subject, but I am afraid of never being able to dialogue with certain of my friends again. If my face showed up as part of that rally, wouldn't somebody lump me in with a bunch of haters who was lumping them in with a bunch of sinners? (And isn't hate one of the worst sins there is?) And then how could I look you in the eye and assure you that God loves you?
So then I started wondering why there are rallies anyway, and why so many Christians get caught up in them. (Let me say here that I believe there are Christians on both sides of this and many other issues. When I say "Christians" here, I actually mean those on both sides. And everybody else, too, for that matter. Let's face it--who ever heard of a rally where people representing either side were particularly loving to those representing the other?) In a rally we can't explain anything. We immediately put up this big huge issue-wall between "us" and "them" and don't get to find out why people think differently than we do, and how we might be mistaken in some ways, and we lose any right we might have had to help show where they might be. Sure, it's easier, but it doesn't really change much. Except that everybody gets a bad taste in their mouth about whomever "the other side" is perceived as being.
And I was thinking that those of us who say we believe in prayer might actually be more effective and have more fun, too, if we all stayed off the streets and went to our churches together and prayed together on those days. I mean, prayed together. Not just quick prayers shot up in the split second that we remembered, "Oh, there's a rally I'm not going to today." (I specialise in that kind. If anyone wanted to pray for me to learn to pray better, it would be an excellent idea.) Real, hard-work, all-together, serious, God-seeking, God's-will-seeking prayers. What if this rally happened and only one "side" showed up, and the "other side" was all in churches somewhere praying for them--for their lives, and their love, and their joy? (Conceivably, Christians on both sides of an issue could meet together then, and talk to God together, as long as they didn't go in with an agenda of convincing the others.)
Or else, what if half the Christians were praying and the other ones were hitting the streets, handing out bagels and coffee or something, to the people that the media and everybody else thought that they hated? Starbucks coffee, of course.