Over the weekend, I was chatting with a woman from San Francisco, whom I’ll call Meg. We were talking books at the Storyline Conference and she asked what mine was about. I told her what I tell everyone:
“I write about Jesus for the urban, liberal skeptic and all the people who are so irate at the church they won’t even consider Jesus a remedy for loneliness, depression, fear and anxiety.
Meg leaned into me, lowered her voice and said:
“I’m not sure how I feel about the Jesus thing, but do you think everyone here is a Republican?”
“No, I don’t,” I said laughing. “But that is a brilliant question.”
The Storyline Conference is hosted by a bunch of Jesus-guys from Nashville and Portland. You know, the guys in skinny jeans, Rag and Bone boots and Ray Ban reading glasses who know how to use their Macs really well. It’s them and about 1,700 other writers and artists from all over the country.
Meg admitted to being well-embraced by the Storyline community (good job Jesus-guys!) but I think she wondered, since she votes a certain way, if she would be embraced by Jesus himself.
HOLY CRAP HOUSTON THAT’S A PROBLEM! But in lieu of the inevitable finger-pointing let me say, I care less where the perception comes from, and more about combating it.
Christian friends listen for a second – Do you know how many people like Meg are reluctant to ask about Jesus because they don’t want to argue about gay marriage and abortion in the coffee line?
Do you know how many people “in the world” are starving for something to hope for, who would take a running leap into the arms of Jesus if they could hear what he said without all the commentary?
We have this incredible privilege to introduce people to Jesus just by being nice to them, but for some it has become, not just culturally acceptable, but mission critical to challenge the moral, religious and political views of strangers as soon as they disagree with them.
So it’s bothersome that Meg was cagey about Jesus because she might be a Democrat or Buddhist or Wiccan or gay or vegan or whatever. It also made me want to post her picture on my desk forever so I can remember for whom my bell tolls.
I don’t want to be remembered for my opinions,” my friend and favorite superhero Bob Goff says. “I want to be remembered for my love.”
Later, as the conference wound down, Willow Creek Community Church was gearing up for Saturday night service. I never imagined being excited to go to church on Saturday night, but when you are heavily loved by Jesus in the exact condition you’re in, it changes what you think is fun.
Plus, in a church of a zillion people, the girl on stage with the green hair and the banjo and the girl in the stilettos who sounds like Billie Holiday except for when she busts into original spoken word poetry, are sure to throw down something holy and cool.
They did. Then a 30-ish pastor got up and said the third commandment – don’t take the Lord’s name in vain – is much more than an injunction against cussing. It is a warning to anybody who would bear the name of God absent its love and mercy.
The Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, segregation, he said, were all examples of Christians charging into the world, with the name of God held high but stripped of its grace and power, leaving nothing to the bearers but their own names, agendas and brands.
The early church, he said, had no buildings or Bibles, just people who had been with Jesus and were marked by the experience, consumed with his light, his passion and his love. The church grew fast because that’s what people wanted then and that’s what they want now.
I don’t know Meg’s history, or what her faith looks like, but I think she feels like Jesus has been appropriated by a team she’ll never play for, so therefore she can’t play.
Meg, if you are reading this, not only are you welcome to play, but he wants you to, because you are singular, precious and beloved and nobody can play your position like you.