“Friendly Fire” at Your Neighborhood Church

“Please don’t talk to our children anymore.” These were the words to a scientist who believed in creation, the incarnation, the resurrection and the return of Christ. They came from an elder in his church. Why? Because he is a biologist who also believes in evolution and does not see his science and faith in conflict. He and his family never went to a church for more than a few weeks for the next ten years,

It’s a story I heard the other day. It’s a story, variations of which, I’ve heard for years. The professor who is suspect in her department because she is a Christian and suspect in her church because she is an academic. The bright high school student who asks too many hard questions when everyone else wants to talk about sex, and is shut down. The successful woman executive who is not permitted to exercise her leadership and management skills on the church board because only men can lead. Some of you can add your own painful stories. I hear a lot of those stories from students and faculty who have walked away from their churches and, in some cases, their faith.

Why do we do this to each other?

I don’t know but I wonder if we are so accustomed to fighting culture wars, battles for the courts, and fights to take back America that we keep fighting anyone who is different, even in the church. And sometimes we are so used to distorting the truth to achieve good ends that we  distort the Bible to justify our friendly fire.

It’s funny how we sometimes talk about finding a church “home.” Robert Frost had this definition of home: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” It strikes me that in most places, when someone shows up at church, they are looking for home, for some kind of rest. Jesus says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He didn’t say, if you do the right things, believe the right things and oppose the wrong ones, I will give you rest. He says this is a place where you can come and lay your burdens down.

I’m not writing this as a rant against my church. Actually, it is a place that lets people be different. Political parties, skin color, what we wear, what we do for recreation, the kinds of songs we like to sing, vegetarians and meatatarians. We do hold some things in common–Jesus, the resurrection, trying to live by the Bible, caring for our neighborhood. Actually, it’s quite simple and unsensationally beautiful at times and we are far from being an exception to the rule.

I simply wish I didn’t have to hear stories like the scientist told. Recently, the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods said they would stop selling assault rifles. He said they did not want to be part of the story of another school shooting. When will we decide that we don’t want to be part of a story of friendly fire at a church?


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