Ah, another Advent. The pressing question is: are we ready? Or maybe the pressing question is: do we even care? Our United Methodist Church can’t seem to be bothered with preparing for a Savior; we are too busy focusing on divisive issues of morality grounded in abominable biblical misinterpretation and theological subversion. When leadership is committed to drawing lines, defending agendas, and choosing sides, who has time for a Messiah? And as independent conservative evangelical Christianity so completely redefined family values, orthodox scriptural witness, and acceptable, appropriate behavioral conduct, to accommodate Donald Trump, the once non-negotiable position of the religious right/Moral Majority turned religious integrity into a bad joke. So, at a time when we need a Savior more desperately than ever, we are not merely indifferent, but apostate.
We are forsaking crucial things for less important things. Our lived values are drifting further and further from our articulated values. We have let human sexual orientation become a defining issue, with all sides confusing orthodoxy with heresy. Rather than focusing our energies, resources and attention to the starving, the oppressed, those denied justice, mercy, and grace, we cannot seem to get our minds off of what others might be doing with their naughty bits. I suspect God is not amused. Serious biblical and theological reflection on issues of human sexuality should settle this complex issue in short order, but too many people in the church have allowed our hermeneutics to become lodged in premodern and primitive pre-Enlightenment cognitive models. Friedrich Schleiermacher’s dire warning that philosophical theology would be displaced by historical and practical theologies has come true in spades. Reason is tossed out the window as the deviate fringe of both extremes of our religious bell-curve become more and more dogmatic and doctrinaire. As we look backwards to define our future, we have no patience for anything both progressive and inclusive.
We might allow a Messiah to be born again this year, but only if love is not part and parcel of his/her character or identity. Tolerance for such infantile rhetoric as “God is love” will not be allowed. We will deny any hint of unconditional love, universal grace, or open acceptance of a behavior that violates our modern morality. We will use the Bible as a weapon to prove our positions based on “what it says”, but heaven help anyone who suggests that “what it means” (and what it meant, in context) is more important. We don’t want to discern, know, or understand the will of God. We simply want what we want, the way we want it. And we will distort and bastardize holy scripture and solid theology to get our own way.
Oh, and we refuse to actually listen to one another. We simply do not care what others think. If no other message is received from our recent presidential campaigns, we should not forget that civil dialogue, dignity, grace, respect, and even facts, are no longer valued or allowed. We will scream our position and then reject anyone who refuses to agree with us. We will create gross perversions of authentic Christian spirituality structures, giving them noble sounding names, pretend they are faithful representations of the true church, but then take all of our problems with us, because we have deluded ourselves that our petty human intolerance is a reflection of the true will and wisdom of God.
Splitting another denomination over the “issue” of “homosexuality” will have incredibly destructive implications. Our frantic efforts at institutional preservation miss the point. God isn’t all that concerned with what organized religion debates and disagrees about. If our Hebrew and Christian scriptures are at all accurate or valid, God is interested most in how we treat one another, especially those OUTSIDE our communion. What we are doing to continue the saving work of Christ is more important that not engaging in proper sex. And so, we are broken. We are hostile and violent. We are selfish and judgmental (myself included, folks — I am only human, and don’t exclude myself for a second…). We are lazy and don’t want to have to do the hard work God requires, so we will deflect, deny, and deal with lesser things. We ignore the passages of scripture that demand the most from us, but hold fast to out-of-context proof-texts that allow us to be divisive, judgmental and petty.
Do we need a Savior? Do we need a Messiah? Yes, oh yes, but we really don’t want one — not if he/she is going to expect us to live up to our confession of faith. If we have to honor the promises made for us at baptism and the promises we have made ourselves since then, well…, we will take a pass on the Messiah, thank you very much. We will continue to filter a superficial reading of a poor English translation of God’s word and make it say exactly what we want it to. We really can’t afford/tolerate the Son of God coming to mess things up. God’s Son calls us to unity. God’s Son calls us to justice. God’s Son calls us to love, and to BE love. For a denomination that is already a broken splinter of a larger shattered Protestant faith tradition, we might as well just break it again. But, brothers and sisters, we can ill afford a Savior who heals and reconciles, who mends and unites, otherwise we won’t be able to demand our own way. Who can get excited about Advent when it means we can’t get what we want for Christmas?