Living As A Bible Believer In The Twenty-first Century

narrow roadIf I were asked how it feels to live as a Bible believer in the twenty-first century, I’d say it feels tight, like I’m being pinched. On one side is the reduction of religious expression in the public place and on the other religionists shouting “legalism.”

Recently Sci-fi author Nancy Fulda, a Hugo and Nebula nominee, expressed the pressure she feels to keep her religious beliefs to herself:

I’m talking about feelings of rejection because of who we are and what we believe, independent of any specific actions we have taken. Feelings of invalidation and dehumanization. Fear of being ridiculed or publicly dogpiled if we allow our religious affiliations to be known. “Sci fi writers feel ridicule over religion”

I have no way of knowing if Ms. Fulda is a Christian or not. She could be Buddhist for all I know, but certainly what she expressed about her faith applies to Christians. More than once I’ve read in Internet discussion that Christians are stupid, believe a fantasy, have no business basing their voting decisions on their religion (supposedly this would be an attempt to legislate morality), and any number of other dismissive statements, including the idea that novelists shouldn’t put religious beliefs in their fiction.

Here are a few sample Kindle reviews of a couple not so recent novels:

* “I’m getting bored with these religious freebies on Kindle… The author has limited linguistic finesse and an even lesser ability to plot and pace the story, which quite frankly, is very poor.”

* “some religous zelouts give religion a bad name with stunts like this. this author has a fish bumper sticker on his car because he hasnt got the guts to admit his own faith up front.”

* “I’m all for people believing whatever they want to believe, but don’t try to sell your beliefs to me by pretending your book is a fiction novel.”

* “This is the second fantasy novel I downloaded not knowing the authors were Christian writers. I have no issue with faith based novels – I simply do not wish to read them (I have my own faith, thank you very much). Readers ought to be given the choice. “

Perhaps the problem is in the execution, but a number of these reviewers seemed to find strong Christianity in a novel to be an affront. And yet, time and again we see other worldviews displayed in fiction–whether in novels or on TV or in movies–with no complaints.

But I mentioned feeling pinched. On the other side, squeezing inward are professing Christians who accuse Bible believing Christians of being legalistic for no other reason than that we believe the whole Bible as opposed to picking and choosing the parts we prefer. Somehow a “progressive” approach is viewed as smarter, more compassionate, and more godly

Generally these people claim some kind of higher ground, professing that belief has evolved, that their understanding of god is not shackled by an outdated book, and therefore is more true because it is their own understanding, their own experience.

So on one hand, secularists want Bible believers to shut up and sit down, and on the other, professing Christians with a “progressive” bent want Bible believers to shut up and sit down.

Well, that gives us lots of options! 😉

I don’t think Bible believers need to be offensive in the way we proceed, but I don’t think being pinched should stop us from saying what we believe or writing what we believe. Scripture says the good news about Jesus Christ will be offensive to those who disbelieve. But at the same time, Peter writes in his first letter that we are not be be guilty of wrong doing–not even of being a “troublesome meddler.” But if we suffer as Christians we are not to be ashamed but are to “glorify God in that name” (see 1 Peter 4).

577013_tightrope_walkerThe thing is, the more Bible believers are pinched, the narrower the road on which we walk. And the narrower the road, the trickier the balancing act we must do.

I don’t think it’s something we need to whine about or even necessarily try to change. It seems to me to be the fulfillment of the conditions described for the Church in the Bible.

But I do think a narrow road, a tight rope extended over treacherous terrain, requires more. More faith, more dependence on God, more humility, more trust, more reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit, more prayer, more understanding of God’s power perfected in weakness.

If that’s where the Bible believer is going in the twenty-first century, I’d have to say, it’s a pretty good place.

God and Bandwagons

I have a thing against bandwagons—a term we use to denote people leaping into a suddenly faddish cause. Mostly I don’t think people who jump aboard popular crazes are using their heads, or their hearts, or their character. They are simply going with the flow.

Of course I can be wrong about that. I once declared the Beatles were a passing fad. Uh, not really! 😛

But you can see why a non-musician such as I might think so. I mean, there were countless girls at their concerts, screaming and crying, to the point that you had to believe NO ONE was actually listening to the music.

Of course, I didn’t understand about the records and radio or how revolutionary these English chaps were.

The point is, I know from that experience bandwagons may be more than faddish, but my first instinct is to suspect they aren’t.

I’m glad about that too, because I think it protects me from going along just to go along. Not that I haven’t done that on occasion. In college a friend asked me to go to a movie with her. Sure, what are we seeing? Turned out to be the controversial X-rated (since, downgraded to R) Midnight Cowboy.

Going along just to go along can lead to some places I don’t want to be.

But just recently, I discovered that, as logical as that stand is, that and the desire to fight against mindlessness, there’s a greater reason to stand against bandwagon jumping: God is against it.

At least He warns against it. I should have seen this sooner. After all, the New Testament uses the analogy of a narrow road and few who find life, but a broad road with many that leads to destruction.

In the epistles, we’re told not to be conformed to the world—no going with the flow.

In the Old Testament, God clearly told the people of Israel not to be like the nations around them—no being like everyone else.

But most recently, I read with new eyes an admonition in amongst the “sundry laws” given Moses at Mt. Sinai:

You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice (Exodus 23:1,2 – emphasis mine).

Jesus’s crucifixion is the perfect example of the kind of bandwagon jumping God commanded His people to avoid. I didn’t highlight the “doing evil” or “pervert justice” parts in the passage, but here’s the thing. If someone jumps on a bandwagon—goes along just to go along—he rarely is thinking about whether or not the end is evil or if justice will be perverted.

The very me-too-ism involved in getting on board a bandwagon requires a blind eye.

Seems to me we would do well to slow down and think, search the pages of Scripture, pray, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit before we write the next scathing blog post or call the President or governor or Senator or neighbor unkind names for disagreeing with those of us atop the bandwagon.

Stretch that out to writing a vampire novel because vampire novels are selling. Or proclaiming postmodern philosophy because po-mos are the new in. As is anything Zen, or green. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point. While I might be wrong about what is or isn’t a fad, I don’t think I’m wrong about our need to turn to God before we take a position … about anything.

Published in: on September 15, 2009 at 11:14 am  Comments (4)  
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