An acquaintance of mine, who is in college hundreds of miles away from where he grew up, once suggested that perhaps one of the most radical things he could would be go home after he graduated–commit himself to the land and the people and his church and stay there, for better or for worse.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be Christian and be radical. We get a mix of the expected and unexpected answers on this blog–to be radical is to work for peace, to work for rights of the oppressed, to stay home instead of traveling abroad. Reading the post on “Covenantal Christians” inspired me to add another layer to this discussion: it is radical to love Christians with whom we disagree without any intent to convert or judge them.
I admire greatly those who participate here at YAR who are feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and visiting the prisoners. I fail at this much more than I succeed, and I am glad for those who continually inspire me and remind me what it means to follow Christ. That said, it makes me nervous when any Christian starts defining who is or who is not a part of the fold. It seems to me that ultimately, God is the only one who can know the extent of a person’s faith and action–and we’ve already got enough Christians in this world who are quick to determine who is saved and who is damned. And Christians, to borrow the words of Barbara Brown Taylor, never treat each other more badly than when they think they are defending God.
The church, as I understand it–and despite lots of evidence to the contrary, is supposed to be a place where the broken and imperfect gather, where we extend grace amidst great failure. None of who believe in the saving grace of God are yet where we will be, and I would challenge any Christian who thinks he or she is not continually in need of that grace. But to allow James Dobson and George W. Bush to define themselves as Christians–no matter how much I disagree with them–is to offer them the dignity I believe all of God’s creatures should have. What good are acts if we have not love? What good is believing any of this if it doesn’t include the possibility of transformation–a new earth and a new heaven–for all, whether rich or poor, powerful or powerless? Given the polarized state of the church today, selfless love seems to be an entirely radical proposition.