|Headquarters of the US Christian Commission. It looks like occupying a farm. Image via Wikipedia|
I was reading this article from the Christian Post, a known right-wing publication by American Evangelical Protestants. The article predicts that "real" Christians would soon have to go "underground" as Mainline Protestant churches "have slipped away from their foundation on the Holy Scriptures and adopted more and more secular tenets and leftist, politically correct, philosophy until they have become only a shadow of the true followers of Christ." The alarmist tone of this article decries not only the historical Mainline denominations (which it calls "social clubs with nationwide franchises") but also the "diluted" Evangelicals (such as the emergent churches), and expresses the fear that in the near future "real" Christians would be persecuted.
Given their political influence this article is laughable, yet it illustrates the false dichotomy between the "Great Commission" and the "Great Commandment." Bruce Bawer, in his book Stealing Jesus, has delineated this dichotomy as a tension between two types of American Christianity: "the Church of Law" and "the Church of Love." However, this black-or-white linear thinking is scripturally unsound.
The commentator quotes the Great Commission, without thinking much of its context:
The Great Commission stated in Matthew 28:18-20 reads: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”What is, then, "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"? Perhaps one of the most important of such teachings is the Great Commandment -- and many teachings against oppressing people in the names of law and order, teachings against greed and corruption, teachings against using religion and religious traditions as fodders to promote evil, and the list goes on. Yet this list would not include anything about defending capitalism, patriotism for America, support for police state and militarism, lower taxes for the rich, de-funding of social services, hatred for immigrants (undocumented or otherwise), promoting American imperialism, armed invasions of other countries, homosexuality, abortion, or even "family values."
That commission from Christ is the sole reason why the church exists today, Longstreet stressed.
“To fulfill that mission the church must stand firmly upon the foundation of the Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Christ. That means insisting that the standard(s) set by Christ are, and remain, the guiding force behind everything the church does ... that means pastors are compelled to preach that those things the Scripture marks as sin are duly, and publicly, noted from their pulpits as SIN. If a church is reluctant to do this, or refuses to do this, then, in my opinion, that church is not a Christian church.”
Social justice is, and has always been, an important part of vocation as Christians throughout history (even Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, did quite a lot). Therefore real Christians ought to occupy their time and space pursuing the real righteousness -- not just a self-righteousness -- after all, faith without works is dead. The Occupy movement has been decrying the sins of this nation, like the Hebrew prophets, all day, every day. It's high time that we see more of the Evangelical Christians open their eyes and come occupy.
This is not an official statement of the Interfaith Guild of Chaplains.