An advertisement for a writer's retreat.

By John Pierce

A once stalwart of Christian fundamentalism, who discovered grace later in life, submitted a manuscript to our Nurturing Faith book publishing company several months ago. The book will be published in a few weeks.

For many years this pastor tickled the ears of a large congregation by constantly proclaiming damnation for those his listeners already despised and condemned: homosexuals, abortionists, so-called liberals, and just about anyone whose ideology is not shaped by Rush Limbaugh.

It is not hard to build or keep a crowd, he said, when you simply reinforce the prejudices of those gathered and never point to any evil that gets too close to home.

Today, he is keenly aware that his preaching and the politicized, selectively condemning messages of those like him have misrepresented the gospel and driven many away from the Christian faith and the church. He is seeking to make amends.

When we met to discuss the manuscript, I offered a few suggestions that might improve the book. And I expressed concern about his claim that many people find the message they hear in church today, and from individual Christians, to be repulsive.

“Do you think ‘repulsive’ is too strong a word?” I asked.

After scanning social media and various news outlets during Holy Week, my sad conclusion is that such a description is fair.

It is simply impossible to find the heart of Jesus in the insensitivity and even hostility toward gay and lesbian persons being posted by some as “biblical truth.” And how can anyone raised on “For God so loved the world…” even flippantly suggest that the U.S. should destroy the innocent masses of people living under the harsh rule of a North Korean dictator?

Jesus’ serious joke about trying to remove a little sawdust from the eye of another while having a log in one’s own eye is completely lost on the many divorcees who are vigilantly protecting the institution of marriage from homosexuals.

It is baffling to see what kind of Jesus we are willing to create in order to support our self-interests and self-preservation — and to avoid dealing with our own stuff.

Most troubling, however, is an overarching question that deserves to be addressed:

Were I not a Christian with a lifelong engagement in congregational life, and simply evaluated Christianity based on what I hear on TV, overhear in the coffee shop, and discover through social media by those who claim to follow Jesus, would I be drawn or repelled?

Honestly and sadly, much of what I find is not compelling. In fact, it is repulsive.

Jesus should be unattractive for other reasons: Who wants to turn the other cheek, walk the second mile, and love one’s enemies?

Who wants to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth? Who wants to save one’s life by losing it? Who wants to deny oneself and take up a cross?

Is that any way to live?

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