Lately, I’ve been morbidly interested in Mars Hill Church. Mars Hill is a Christian mega-church with 15 locations, a head pastor who believes in predestination and complementary gender-roles, and a hip website that includes trailers for their sermon series (yes, really). Their current series is called 1 John: Love One Another, but then there’s quotes like this, from head pastor Mark Driscoll:
“Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritious [sic]. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.” [Source]
Maybe it’s weird, but I really like learning about extreme beliefs and the people who hold them. Those same beliefs – like the one above – often make me sick to my stomach. After several hours of reading about Mars Hill Church today, I became pretty depressed. Not because “God doesn’t think I’m cute.” Because it hurts me to see people judge and hate each other, and then attribute those beliefs to the creator of the universe. It hurts me to see people preach love and tolerance with an attitude of elitism and superiority.
That attitude is not unique to Mars Hill, and this blog post isn’t just about that church. It’s about my struggle and obsession with finding the “right” beliefs – a struggle that I think many people have. My friends and family don’t really understand why, but it’s really important to me to find out if there’s a “right way” to live, because if there is, I want to live it. The reason I love learning about other people’s beliefs is because, when I see a person who really knows what they believe, boldly, brashly, I want to know why. I want to figure out what it is that makes them so sure. Maybe it will convince me, too, and then I’ll finally know where I belong.
But hard as I try, I just can’t. I can’t believe that the Bible is literally true, when so much of it contradicts itself and what we see in the natural world. I can’t believe that one tiny group of people in a sea of seven billion knows what is right for all of us. When I see the extraordinary diversity in the world, across the globe, I just can’t believe that there’s only one right way to live.
I will never be able to believe in my heart that it is wrong to be gay. I will never be able to believe that I know better than someone else what is right for them. If I look into my spirit and try to identify the part of me that feels closest to God, it is love. It is the desire to help people, to make them feel valuable. To make them feel like they are loved.
I call myself a liberal Christian because, even if I do not take the Bible literally, I am inspired by the words and actions of Jesus. Jesus never said anything about being gay. He never said anything about premarital sex. What did he tell us? To love each other. To share our gifts and our wealth. To treat each other as equals. Even if your literal belief in the Bible causes you to believe in an angry God, shouldn’t it also bring you to believe that God is the only one to judge?
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12 NIV)
Sometimes, I feel bad because I haven’t gotten it all figured out. I haven’t settled on the nitty-gritty details of my beliefs, and I worry that I’ll be a seeker ’til the day I die. But as I was telling that to Ken today, he asked, “Don’t you know pretty strongly what your values are?”
I guess I do. I believe that no one person knows what’s right for everyone. I believe that none of us has the right to judge how other people peacefully and respectfully live their lives. There are things that I believe are wrong: hurting others, abuse, killing, stealing. But as for those beliefs that most often divide us – whom to thank for your life, whom to love – I don’t think there can be one right way. I just can’t believe that God created us all different so that we can all be the same.
I worry, when I meet someone who is so sure of their own beliefs, that maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think that my values came out of thin air. I don’t believe that they are all mine. I believe they are a reflection of something greater than I am.
I don’t have it all figured out. But I believe I have one small piece of the puzzle.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)
Source: Ian Chen