Haters Gonna Hate: Challies on Pope Francis

francisTim Challies, a neo-Calvinist watchblogger of note, has just issued a statement in which he decries Pope Francis as a false teacher.  This is part of a series of posts which puts Pope Francis in the same company as Arius, Muhammed, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White (founder of Seventh-Day Adventism), Norman Vincent Peale, and Benny Hinn.  Interesting assortment, wouldn’t you say?

So what are Challies’ grounds for saying that Pope Francis is a false teacher?  Francis is the leader of an organization that holds to a false Gospel.  In Challies’ own words:

For all we can commend about Pope Francis, the fact remains that he, as a son of the Roman Catholic Church and as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, remains committed to a false gospel that insists upon good works as a necessary condition for justification. He is the head of a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. The core doctrinal issues that divided Protestantism from Catholicism at the time of the Reformation remain today. The core doctrinal issues that compelled Rome to issue her anathemas against Protestantism are unchanged. Rome remains fully committed to a gospel that cannot and will not save a single soul, and officially damns those who believe anything else…

But there’s more.  Here is perhaps the most striking part of the whole piece:

Even while Francis washes the feet of prisoners and kisses the faces of the deformed, he does so out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him. Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all.

A work of the devil?  In the Neo-Calvinist universe it is
A work of the devil? In the Neo-Calvinist universe it is

In the Neo-Calvinist universe, of which Challies is a part, doctrine is everything.  So much so, that you are saved or damned based on the statement of belief that’s on file down at your church or denomination’s front office.  Get this right, and all is peachy.  Get it wrong, and you’re putting your faith in a false Gospel and on a path straight to hell.

Seriously, people?????  SERIOUSLY?????

Look.  There are points of Catholic teaching and belief that are issues of conscience for me.  These issues present serious obstacles to my ever converting to Catholicism.  Though I love to take in a midnight Mass at Christmas or an Easter Vigil service, it is doubtful that my involvement with the Catholic Church will extend beyond that, and these issues are the reason.  If you feel similarly about certain points of Catholic belief, I get that.  I really do.

But to say that the Catholic Church is “a false church that is opposed to the true gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone”, or that Pope Francis, by virtue of his position as the leader of the Catholic Church, is “committed to a false gospel”, or that any good works he does are done “out of and toward this false gospel that leads not toward Christ, but directly away from him. Good deeds done to promote a false gospel are the most despicable deeds of all“?  That is uncalled for.  To trot out the same old, tired, and possibly incorrect talking points that so many of the Reformed persuasion have been trotting out for so long, and to take those talking points all the way to the absurd extreme of consigning an entire branch of Christianity to the status of “false church” simply because the statement of belief on file down at the front office is a little off in regards to soteriology (I’m not above trotting out big theological words to impress my readers)…That is uncalled for.

I think it is best to close with a quote from C. S. Lewis.  In the introduction to Mere Christianity he likens the Christian faith to a large guesthouse.  The hall is a common space where Christians of all stripes can interact freely, while the rooms represent the various churches and denominations inside the Christian faith, places where one can find deeper fellowship and closer agreement.  No one is saying here that anyone has to give up their room or choose a different room, but it would behoove us all to spend some time in the hall, interacting with Christians of other stripes, seeking to understand and learn from them, talking with them rather than spouting talking points, especially old, tired, and possibly inaccurate talking points.  And when you return to your own room, take these words of C. S. Lewis to heart:

When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.  If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.  That is one of the rules common to the whole house.

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Easter

easter08Last week we ended with Jesus’ body buried in the tomb.  It would be completely wrong for me to leave you thinking that the story ends there.

So now we continue.  To a road outside Jerusalem, leading to one of the surrounding communities, a place called Emmaus.  Emmaus was seven miles out of Jerusalem, about a two-hour walk for most people.

Two disciples are walking along this road.  One is called Clopas.  We don’t know the name of the other.

As they walk, they talk.  They were in Jerusalem for Passover weekend, and they saw and heard about all that went down with this Jesus guy.  They had put all their hopes on him as the Messiah and Deliverer of Israel, and then he went and got himself crucified.  Simply horrible, the way all that went down.  But now, what else is there to do?  Just go back to life as it was before.  “Dream another dream, this dream is over”, as Sammy Hagar would have said, except that Sammy Hagar wouldn’t come on the scene for another two thousand years.  And on top of all that, some really strange reports have been going around lately.  Seems some of the women went down to the tomb and saw angels, but you can’t trust women.  They’re always talking nonsense.  Somebody saw a man there (the gardener?).  Somebody saw the tomb empty and all the grave clothes all neatly folded up.  But nobody saw Jesus.  Something really fishy must be going on here.

As they talk, a stranger comes up alongside them and joins their conversation.  What are you talking about as you pass along the way on this fine day?  They respond as you or I would:  Dude, what rock have you been living under the last several days?  Have you not heard all the craziness back in Jerusalem about Jesus of Nazareth?

Now we know, because Luke tells us, that this stranger was Jesus.  But the two disciples did not know.  Why?  Not because of original sin.  Not because of a lack of faith, or because of some sin in their lives that blinded them to the sight of God.  No, Luke makes a point of telling us that they were kept from recognizing Jesus because he had concealed his identity from them.

But now Jesus begins to lead them along.  “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”  (Luke 24:25-27) He then launched into a full-on Old Testament Survey course, right there on the road.

So now they get to Emmaus, and Jesus acts like he’s going on further.  They insist that he at least stop and have dinner with them.  He agrees, then immediately takes over the house and makes it his own.  He breaks bread and shares it with them.  Immediately their eyes are opened and they recognize him, and immediately he disappears.

Now our scene shifts to an upper room somewhere in Jerusalem.  All of Jesus’ closest disciples are here, with the door locked shut for fear of the Jews.  They all saw and heard what happened to Jesus; how much more could they expect the same to happen to them if it got out that they were with Jesus.

All of a sudden Jesus appears in their midst, right there in the middle of the locked upper room.  No Jesus standing outside knocking on the door of your heart, which can only be opened from the inside (thank you very much Thomas Kinkade).  Had there been a knock at this door, it could only have meant one thing.

“Peace be with you”, he says.  But the disciples act like they have just seen a ghost.  You would too, if you had just seen someone appear right in the middle of the room from out of nowhere.  So he shows them his hands and feet.  See the nail marks.  Yes, it really happened.  Watch me eat some fish.  Ghosts don’t eat.  He then goes on to explain to them everything out of the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (the three divisions of the Jewish Scriptures: Law, Prophets, Writings) and how it all pointed to him, just as he did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

But Thomas was not with them.  When Thomas came back and the disciples said they had seen Jesus, he responded just as you or I would: “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25)  This reply gets Thomas tagged with the nickname “Doubting Thomas”.  But who wouldn’t have had a similar reaction?  And on some level, doesn’t his reaction make sense?

So fast-forward one week.  Same upper room.  This time Thomas is present.  Jesus appears again, from out of nowhere, just like last week.  Again, “Peace be with you.”  And he goes straight to Thomas.  Take your finger and put it into the nail marks in my hands.  Take your hand and put it into my side.  Jesus didn’t even have to be there, and he knew exactly what Thomas was thinking.  How creepy is that?

So what does all this mean for us?  It means that Christ is truly risen.  No one believed it at first, because dead men don’t rise.  But this one did.  Had Christ not risen, we would be of all men most to be pitied, as Paul makes painfully clear.  If Christ is not risen, if the resurrection is just a tale made up to make us feel good and give our lives meaning and inspire us to courage in the face of death, then the Christian message is pointless.  Faith in Jesus saves only if Jesus saves, and Jesus saves only if Jesus is raised from the dead.  If Christ is not risen, then the Scriptures are all lies, fabrications, and misrepresentations.  Jesus is no moral teacher or inspirational example; he is just a false prophet who deserved exactly what he got when he was crucified.  If Christ is not risen, then you are still in your sins and you’d better get busy trying to atone for them.  Good luck with that.

If Christ is not risen; if all we have is some spiritual resurrection that happens inside our hearts like all the liberal scholars love to talk about, if our Scriptures are nothing more than a book of cleverly invented tales about a dead Jesus who inspired some people to write interesting lies so we can all feel good about ourselves in this life, then we above all are the most pitiful religious sops ever to walk the face of the earth.  You might as well go join another religion; try Hinduism or Buddhism.  Or better yet, atheism.  Makes life a whole lot simpler.  Shame on us for succumbing to all those crazy God delusions.  Let’s just eat and drink and live it up, because tomorrow we die.

But Christ is risen.  The Word of God is vindicated.  Your faith is not in vain.  Your sins are atoned for and you are forgiven.  Death is defeated, the grave has lost its sting, and in Christ all the dead will rise.  Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we live, because Christ is risen.

Palm Sunday: It’s About To Get Real

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The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the king of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written:

“Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion;
see, your king is coming,
seated on a donkey’s colt.”

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that these things had been done to him.

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

–John 12:12-19

It all started on the road to Jericho, just outside Jerusalem.  It was Passover, the time for revolution and rioting, and there was revolution in the air.  There Jesus was, just outside the city gates, riding in on the seat of a donkey, all in accordance with ancient prophecy.  His closest followers laying palm branches at his feet and crying “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” straight out of Psalm 118.  As he entered the city, throngs of people rushed to him and joined in the adulation.  They likely imagined that revolution was imminent, and here was the one to lead it.  Here at last was Israel’s King, the one who would lead the people in throwing off the bonds of godless imperial Rome and ushering in the Kingdom of God when Israel would be at the top of the heap and God Himself would reign from their holy city.

Ah, if only they knew.  This was a king all right, but like no king the world has ever seen before or since.  His donkey was borrowed.  His royal robes were placed upon him in mockery.  His crown was a crown of thorns pressed into his head.  His throne was atop a Roman cross.  He went into a holy war all right, not to kill but instead to die for his people and his kingdom.

We have come to Palm Sunday.  We are now in the home stretch of the Lenten season, a time known by many as “Holy Week”.  This is a special time, a time when all the events leading up to Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross come to a head.

It starts today with Palm Sunday.  Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey as his disciples make a royal highway of coats and palm branches and the crowds around pick up the shouts of “Hosanna!!!”  (literally: “Save!!!”)  But in all probability nobody in that crowd was thinking “Save us from our sins!”  Instead they were thinking “Save us from Rome!”

From there we go to the Temple.  Here was the place where heaven and earth intersected, where God dwelt with man.  Yet in those days it had become a place of bargaining and transacting with God.  A crazy religious racket had grown up in support of this.  When Jesus showed up he overturned all the tables and drove all the racketeers out.  John chose to put this scene at the front of his Gospel, and for that reason many speculate that there must have been two temple cleansings, one early in Jesus’ ministry and one during this fateful final week.  But all such speculation is beside the point.

Now we go to a hurried meeting under cover of darkness.  Jesus came to his own yet his own did not recognize him.  One of his closest disciples betrayed him.  Judas, when he saw that Jesus wasn’t exactly on board with the revolutionary program, slipped away to the chief priests and betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver.  Later, he attempted to return the money to the chief priests out of remorse for the events he had set into motion.  But they would have none of it.  He went off and hanged himself, an abject picture of unbelief and rejection of the grace that was his.  He should have returned to Jesus.

From here we go to a borrowed upper room.  Jesus and his disciples are celebrating the Passover.  His betrayer Judas is outed, in fulfillment of the psalm that the one who breaks bread with Jesus would betray him.  He takes the unleavened bread of the Passover, called the bread of affliction, breaks it and gives it to his disciples as his own body given unto death as a sacrifice for them.  After the meal he takes the cup and gives it to the disciples as the cup of his own blood poured out for them for their forgiveness, as the new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Now it’s off to a garden in the shadow of the Mount of Olives.  There Jesus agonizes in prayer, wrestling with the Father while the disciples sleep, searching desperately for another way yet in the end submitting to the Father’s will.  Almost at the very moment he says “Thy will be done,” an armed mob shows up.

Of course the disciples scatter immediately.  “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter.”  Peter continues to follow, but only at a distance.  And even then he is so fearful that he denies knowing Jesus to a middle-school girl.

Now Jesus gets whisked away to a tribunal hastily convened under cover of darkness.  The Jewish religious leaders find him guilty of blasphemy for speaking the truth and claiming to be the Son of God.  Which is, by the way, a pretty blasphemous thing to say if it isn’t true.

So off to Pilate.  Religion has had its say and found Jesus guilty; now politics gets its shot.  There is a quick detour to Herod, the purported “king of the Jews”.  Face to face with the real King of the Jews, Herod is completely and totally unimpressed.  From that day on, Herod and Pilate became friends.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  That’s how it works in politics.

Pilate is reluctant to sentence Jesus to death; he knows the protocols of Roman justice and does not wish to go against them.  But with an unruly mob on his hands and revolution in the air, he does the expedient thing and sends Jesus to his death, letting a condemned murderer go in his place.

Barabbas was an insurrectionist.  He could be trusted to get things going and stir up the revolution to throw off the bonds of imperial Rome.  In this moment, that’s who the people wanted.

Right there in Pilate’s court, we have the Great Exchange acted out for real; though probably no one at the time knew the significance of what was happening.  Jesus, the Son of God, a perfectly innocent man, goes to die the death we all deserve because of our sin, while each and every last one of us, represented that day in the person of the condemned murderer Barabbas, go free.  Jesus receives our sin while we receive his righteousness.

But this is not automatic.  We still have the freedom to refuse the grace, righteousness, and freedom which is ours.  Judas, as we saw earlier, refused it in most graphic fashion.  Let that serve as a cautionary example.

Now we wind our way through the streets of Jerusalem.  Jesus is straining under the weight of his cross, so much so that a traveling pilgrim in town for the Passover has to assist.  Yet Jesus has the strength to find compassion for women who are weeping and wailing for him.  He has pity on them because he knows what is coming upon Jerusalem in just a couple of decades.  “If people do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”  (Luke 23:31) We know what happened.  History has recorded it.

Now we reach Golgotha, the “Place of the Skull”.  There Jesus is crucified between two criminals, perhaps cohorts of Barabbas.  Perhaps Barabbas was to have been the third.  Yet there was Jesus, in what was perhaps intended to be Barabbas’s place.  This is worthy of pondering.

All along the way, people jeer him.  No more Hosannas from this crowd.  Shouts of “Save us” turn to jeers of “Save yourself, if you are the Christ.”  Of course he is, but that is not the way of the Christ.  Yet over all of them, Jesus speaks the word “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  (Luke 23:34)

He pardons a dying thief.  Actually, probably much worse than a thief.  Rome didn’t crucify thieves.  They only crucified people whose crime was so grievous that they had to be made an example of, that they could not be trusted to row a slave ship or work as a slave in some official’s field or kitchen.  But tradition has it that this guy was a thief, so we shall go with that.

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”  This is Jesus’ promise to the dying thief.  And this promise is available to all who have placed their trust in Jesus.  Don’t rush by this.

Now the sun darkens at the middle of the day, the earth shakes, the curtain inside the temple is torn in two from top to bottom, and the graves of the righteous split open and they rise with him in what is surely a preview of the Last Day.  Jesus speaks his last words:  “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit”.  He trusted his Father completely, right up to the moment of his death.

Now we move to the tomb of a rich man.  Though all the disciples have long since fled, a secret disciple has come forward and requested the body of Jesus.  A member of the ruling council, no less.  He disagreed with the council’s decision to condemn Jesus.  God has His people everywhere.  We know the guy’s name: Joseph of Arimathea.  He does the courageous thing and goes to Pilate to request the body of Jesus.  If not for this, Jesus’ body would have been disposed of in a common grave.

And here is where our story ends, with Jesus being laid in the tomb.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

–Isaiah 53:9

 

And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

–Philippians 2:8

Lent Week 5: Jesus Raises a Dead Man

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Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

Jesus wept.

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

–John 11:1-44

We are now in week 5 of the Lenten season.  One of the traditional readings from this week is this familiar passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus gets word that his friend Lazarus is sick.  But he doesn’t go right away; instead he stays on another two days.  Don’t you just love the sense of urgency here?

Jesus does go to Bethany.  By the time he gets there, all the townspeople are gathered around.  Lazarus has been dead for four days, and all the mourners are out.  Mary and Martha are understandably upset.  Wasn’t Jesus their friend?  Didn’t they entertain him one day?  Didn’t Martha cook all day for that?  And he still didn’t come?  Where is the love?  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Yet even at this point there is a glimmer of hope in Martha:  “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  She doesn’t know the half of it.  Jesus is not simply a prophet, someone to whom God listens and grants favors.  He is not simply a “son of man”, like Ezekiel; instead he is the Son of Man, God Himself in human flesh.  Martha’s hope is for the last day:  “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  But Jesus is the Resurrection, the one who would conquer death once and for all, standing right there in her midst.

“I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  There are seven I AM sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John; this is the last of them.  Resurrection is not just a last-day thing with Jesus; instead, resurrection and life are present tense.  Wherever he is, they are.  Oh, you will die a physical death all right, but this will not be the end for you.  You will live, even as you wind your inexorable way to death.  Death is your destiny in Adam, but life is your destiny in Jesus.  The grave cannot and will not hold you, because it could not and did not hold Jesus.

To show that his words are real and not just so much hot air, Jesus goes to the tomb.  He orders that the stone be removed.  Martha doesn’t quite trust what is happening.  Lazarus has been dead for four days, and surely there will be a bad odor.  But Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.  With Jesus, death has lost its sting.  Jesus goes to the mouth of the open tomb.  He prays a very unnecessary prayer, strictly for the benefit of those watching.  And then he speaks the words:  “Lazarus, come out!”  And Lazarus comes out, just as alive as ever.

You would think that the religious leaders would be impressed by this.  But if you keep reading you will see that they are not.  They were not impressed when Jesus healed the man born blind, and they are especially not impressed now.  They plot to kill Jesus, and Lazarus with him.  Jesus predicted as much, in a story about another Lazarus.

One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, suggested that it was best for one man to die for the nation rather than the entire nation be lost.  Of course he was speaking in strictly practical terms; get rid of the one troublemaker and there won’t be trouble for the entire nation.  Yet John takes great pains to point out that Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not just for the Jewish nation but for all the children of God wherever they might be, so that they all might be one.

From here we segue into Palm Sunday and the events leading up to the cross.  This is as good a place as any to break it off.

Seriously, My Fellow Evangelicals?????

Today we are going to circle back to that World Vision thing.

OK.  I know it’s over a week old and most of the world has moved on already and won’t I just drop it for crying out loud?  But I can’t let it go.  Because this is seriously blowing my mind.

Think about it, people.  Two thousand of you pulled your sponsorships of World Vision children because you disagreed with a change they made to their hiring policy.  Two thousand children and families are now without food and money and all the other benefits of sponsorship because you wanted to make a political point.

Seriously, my fellow evangelicals?????  SERIOUSLY??????????????

You sit here, in a level of wealth and luxury that is simply unimaginable to most of the outside world, and you play games with the lives and livelihoods of children and families in distressed parts of the world just because you don’t like the politics of the organization that is sponsoring them.  These people are now no longer worthy of your money, time, attention, or prayers simply because the organization sponsoring them changed its hiring policy and you wanted to take your support to other organizations whose values “are more closely aligned” with yours.  What’s more, this policy change attempted to give at least some measure of worth and dignity to a class of people whom you consider to be undeserving of worth or dignity or anything remotely resembling these–at least until they repent and become straight like you.

And you consider this to be like Christ.

Shame on you, my fellow evangelicals.  You are better than that.  Christianity is better than that.

Come on, people.

Okay.  Now I know there are some people out there reading this who are outside of evangelicalism, looking in at all of this and saying “See?  Told ya.”  You read my criticisms of evangelicalism and you could have told me the exact same thing.

Do not think that I will be joining you in your criticisms of evangelicalism.

Why?

An example would serve best to illustrate:  Georgia’s football program has had kind of a rough offseason.  Several players have gotten arrested, and some have even been kicked off the team.  This has been an ongoing issue at Georgia, and has prompted fans to voice concerns over coach Richt’s handling of the football program.

A couple of weeks back, Kirk Herbstreit took to the ESPN airwaves and expressed the exact same concerns.  This prompted an immediate and visceral reaction from the Bulldog nation.  Why?  Because Kirk Herbstreit is a longstanding and well-documented Georgia hater.  He played quarterback for Ohio State.  We punked him and Ohio State in the 1992 Citrus Bowl, and he has been eating sour grapes ever since.

Two friends may be in a knock-down, drag-out argument over some issue or other.  But let an outsider jump in and take one side or the other, and both will unite and turn against him.  It’s hypocritical and it’s unfair, but it’s human nature.

I am a Georgia fan.  Those of you who have tracked with me long enough know this.  When Georgia loses horribly you know that it can get quite visceral around here.  Why?  Because I care.  As a Redcoat, I got to experience Georgia football up close and personal for four-plus years.  Because of this, I have a deep and profound emotional investment in Georgia football.  I would like to think that this entitles me to want to see Georgia get better, to have opinions about what has to happen in order for Georgia to get better, and to express those opinions.

Those of you who are Florida fans know better than to assume, when you read my rants, that I am about to burn all my red and black, go get some jean shorts and put on orange and blue and come do the Gator chomp (or whatever you call that crazy arm thing you do) at the next Florida pep rally.  You would know better than that.  Even if I threaten to do exactly that, as I may sometimes do in exasperation when my team shows up monumentally unprepared for a crucial game.  You would have enough sense to know that if you were to attempt to invite me to the next Florida pep rally, it would probably not go very well for you.

Likewise, I rant about evangelicalism because I care.  I would like to believe that I have been around long enough and am emotionally invested enough to care.  I would like to believe that I have enough of an emotional investment to be entitled to want to see evangelicalism get better, and to have opinions of my own as to what has to happen in order for evangelicalism to get better.

Those of you who are outside of evangelicalism:  It probably comes as no surprise to you that this World Vision thing is happening.  You could have told me long ago that evangelicalism has a monumentally shitty track record when it comes to engaging the gay community.  Some of you probably left evangelicalism for that very reason.

Please don’t expect me to join you.  I care too much to simply walk away and pretend it means nothing to me.  I could say “I DON’T CARE!!!!!!!!” all day long and it would be a complete lie.  My words would give me away.

My final words are for you liberals.  Don’t think you’re getting off scot-free tonight, because you’re not.  Last year Louie Giglio was supposed to deliver a prayer at Obama’s inauguration.  This was in recognition of all that Passion and the Do Something Now campaign in all its forms and incarnations over the years has done to raise awareness among young people of human sex trafficking and other such injustices.  And then some of you–who have WAY too much spare time on your hands–went snooping around in the sermon archive and found some things he said about homosexuality over a decade ago that you disagreed with, and Giglio was off the program.

Guess this World Vision thing means we’re even now.