Having never been part of a right-wing fundamentalist evangelical congregation, I feel like I miss out on a lot of the emotions that haunt others.
Dan Dick, for instance, has a particularly biting critique of Western culture.
Our modern Western culture had selfishly and hatefully made salvation a personal matter — as long as I am okay with my buddy Jesus, the rest of the world can go to hell. The idea that our faith is a corporate and communal affair at is heart is anathema to the individualistic, selfish and self-centered values in our culture.
I never went to the church that says the rest of the world can go to hell so long as I have Jesus. My religious background was more likely to say, “I’m busy packing flood buckets. Talk to me later.”
So, I get confused when I read comments like Dick’s or encounter someone like NT Wright furiously battling to keep the individualists at bay. Coming to Christ in the liberal wing of the United Methodist Church, I never heard anyone extolling individualism. The phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” was rarely spoken unless as an illustration of the kinds of things that fundamentalists say.
From where I have come, I see a lot of people who could do with a good reminder that there is a personal side to salvation. It is not just about being on the right team or having sympathy for the right causes. It is about an honest-to-God encounter with a living and active God.
I’m not a refugee from the right-wing. I’m a spiritual offspring of the liberal mainline who discovered one day that Jesus is more than an interesting idea or a sometimes inconvenient source of radical political slogans. I discovered one day that John Shelby’s Spong’s theory about Easter being a sudden change in attitude by the apostles just did not cut it. I discovered — much to my dismay at first — that prayer is answered by a living God.
I write about this because there may be a few others out there like me and to remind myself that much of the heat and bother I read — especially on the Internet — is coming from people fighting dragons I have never seen. They hear the leathery wing beats in the air. They smell his sulphur-breath coming at them from many a dark alley. I look and listen but find nothing.
My battles are more often with rather serious people who want to assure me that there are no such things as dragons or angels and want to make it very clear that they do not think it is possible that Jonah could have actually been swallowed by a fish.
No wonder I often feel as if I am talking past people.