A Gospel of Our Own Imagination

I was doing a follow up interview with author GP Taylor when he said the most remarkable thing. "If you have got no humility and forgiveness in your life, you are not living the gospel. You are living a gospel of your own imagination."

I thought about his comment when I got an email from a friend detailing some of the hate mail she'd been getting from Christians. Why my friend asked, did these people "who profess to follow a God of love" treat her with such contempt? She's not a Christian--does that mean she is not worthy of respect and dignity?

It's a pretty common question these days--step over the line in a public forum and a Christian will be there to drop kick you with the love of Jesus. (Philip Yancey, the bestselling Christian author, has said that the nastiest hate mail he gets comes from Christians.)

Pundits like Anne Coulter have combined so-called Christian values with equal parts smackdown, snark, and self-righteousness and made millions. It's a model that many Christian bloggers have taken up and the results are ugly.

For example, in a recent debate over at the Revealer.org, here's a direct quote from a leading conservative Catholic blogger:

You may not believe in violence but I do. Come to my church and disrupt the Eucharist and I will rip your nuts off and stick them down your throat.

Yours in Christ...

This kind of response is unChristian. It's that simple. We cannot do the Lord's work--and treat our neighbors with contempt--even the leftist commie pinkos who want to disrupt the Eucharist. We can't even call them leftist commie pinkos, not to mention ripping of nuts without putting our immortal souls in jeopardy.

That's what the boss said, so don't blame me if you don't like it.

CS Lewis said once that the most holy thing we encounter in this life, outside of the blessed sacrament, is our neighbors. They hold a sacred dignity by being created in God's image. It is something close to blasphemy to treat them with contempt.

Now I'm no saint--I act like an asshole more often than I'd like to admit. It's that knowledge of my own stupidity, and my own failings, which reminds me to be humble. I have received grace--and need to extend grace to others.

Too many Christians, I fear, have given up on grace and embrace the exhileration that self-rightousness and snark offer us. Smack down feels good and there's nothing like stomping on the idiots out there who don't agree with us.

But it's also a sin and embracing it undermines the witness of the Gospel. We cannot serve a God of love and revel in hate. We cannot hate those who God has made in his own image.

Lest I be accused of being a soft hearted sentimentalist or a polictically correct clown, let me close with this from CS Lewis' essay, "The Weight of Glory."

It is a serious thing to live in a society of gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature, which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror, such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmares. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.

It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilitie, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. But it is with immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit--immortal horrors or everlasting splendours."

"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself," Lewis closed by saying, "your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses."

Heaven help us if we forget.


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