On Being a Christan in 2019
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
During the Obama administration, I would use the above passage against those that would use the name of God to explain their disrespect of President Obama. As someone who earnestly was looking for answers in the book, I latched onto the above passage as a sort of litmus test for those that I thought saw the instructions as I did and those that I thought were only using it for their personal gain.
But something happened in January 2017. No longer was the leader that was over me a leader that I agreed with. No longer were they on my side. No longer was it me using this verse to “encourage” others to listen to the President. Now, all of the Tea Party protestors and homophobic County Clerks ( looking at you Wayne Neighbors, County Clerk of Putnam County, Tennessee ) that I had protested against used my banner flag against me. This book that had given me peace and comfort and love was now being used to tell me that I must be subservient to someone who is a self proclaimed sexual predator.
How? How could the book based on “loving others as yourself” tell me that I have to be obedient to sexual predator Donald Trump? As someone who is still drinking milk and too immature in faith to eat meat, I do not claim to know the answer to that. But as a child, I still have hope and faith that the verse must mean something deeper than “Sorry, Tim. I said what I said.”
As I’ve questioned, one other verse keeps coming to mind:
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
This isn’t a “get out of jail free” verse. I do not think that Jesus is saying that as long as “we have love in our hearts” we can do whatever we want. We don’t get to be a sexual predator just because we’re famous.
What this verse points at is the meaning behind the Law. The reason we have the Law in the first place. The goal that following the Law is supposed to accomplish. The fruit of the Law.
With that lens, let’s look again at Romans 13. Why would God tell Their followers that they must obey the leaders in a land where the leaders might not want us to love God and our neighbors? If every rule must be about those two things, why is there a specific callout to be subservient?
We can find our answers in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. In the story, three men were thrown in a furnace for not obeying the “God appointed” leader, the exact thing Romans 13 talks about. However, God does not come and high-five the leader, yelling into the furnace “I told y’all!” Instead, as the story goes, God is found inside the furnace with the 3 men, bringing them to safety.
These two verses are not at odds with each other, merely our understanding of Romans 13. If that passage must point at loving others as ourselves, it cannot say that we must follow blindly any leader that happens to be in charge, especially if that leader says it’s okay to be a sexual predator like Donald Trump.
Taking this ideology of all rules must point at loving others as ourselves, why is there a specific rule against woman leading the Church? Why aren’t non-heterosexuals allowed? Why is divorce such a wicked thing? How are these parts of the Law pointing at loving God and loving others as yourself?
Once again, I do not know the answer.
But I know it looks like loving others. I know it looks like me not being first. I know that, whatever They were trying to point at, I am a servant of others and any rules that raise my status among others is probably me misunderstanding the instructions more than the instructions pushing towards selfish gains.
I know that this religion that has brought me meaning in a meaningless world cannot be used to put another down. Paul says that if it is a sin to eat meat to someone, let that be a sin to them. We are not judged by what we do but why do them.
I know that the only people that Jesus got angry at were the “holy”, the Teachers and Lawful ones. Jesus spent time with the wicked, the lowly, the non-heterosexual, the women, the adulterers. They fed the poor and gave them peace while given warnings to the Pharisees.
I know that Jesus washed the feet of the person that would cause him to be tortured and crucified. They did not throw Judas out of the meal because of the betrayal. Jesus lowered himself below such an evil person and lifted that person up.
I know that the Church that praises Jesus on Sundays is the same Church that yelled at me and an ex at an abortion clinic. The church that pushed me towards ministry and “loving others” told me in no uncertain terms that I would not be accepted if I was attracted to who I was attracted to.
I know that when I tried in earnest ( and in mania ) to follow the word of God and give away everything in order to find those that needed love, the Church turned their back on me and told me that I was “not one of them” because I looked different. I was the least of us and begged for water and respite from my journey and was told I was not welcome.
I know that those that profess the glory and power of God are the first ones to attack me and the ones that Jesus helped.
I don’t know how to reconcile these two things. I don’t know how to tell my wife that I believe in a religion that has hurt her and punished her purely for being a female. I don’t know how to tell those I work with that I am a servant of God without them feeling as if I think they are damned because they go by “them”.
I don’t know what it means to be a Christian in 2019 but I don’t think I want to be one if it means we forget the reason for the Law and try to follow the pieces of the Law that we like.
If, instead, in 2019 we earnestly search for God, earnestly trying to understand what it means to love others as we love ourselves, sign me up. If being a Christian in 2019 means that we give up worldly treasures in order to build up those below us, that we wash the feet of those that mean us harm, that we look at every Law with the lens of “how is this helping me love God or others”, then I am a slave.
I’ve climbed many mountain in my life. All of them have been empty and meaningless. If we can say that loving God and loving others is the mountain that we, as a group of Christians, honestly want to climb, I couldn’t care less if the top is as empty as before. Because we’ll have gotten there together.