Tuesday, April 21, 2015

OxyMorons & Redundancies on the #NarrowRoad

It seems lately that things that have always bothered me a bit in nagging sorts of ways have become magnified. This is true in both my day-to-day living and in my writing. Part of it can be attributed to me having too much time on my hands these days, and thus my brain is free to wander. Part of it can be accredited to my advancing age and an "I'm too old for this sh*t" Lethal Weapon mentality. And a part of my newfound irritability is due to the circumstances I have lived under for the past 8 years. When your life is controlled by rules and restrictions that often make no sense the frustration level rises and you begin to see things differently. And that's not always a bad thing...

The #NarrowRoad is filled with Christians seeking to follow a path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. We all desire a closer relationship with Jesus, but we go about building that bond in very different ways, often using labels to describe the kind of Christian we hope to be. One of the most popular labels believers give themselves is one that has often bothered me- Conservative Christian. Much of my consternation over the term comes from my dislike of mixing religion and politics, and this term often serves to do just that. But lately there has been something different that bothers me, something almost- dare I say it- theological. Let's take a look at the dictionary definition of the word conservative:

Holding to traditional and safe attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

That sounds about right. And take a look at some of the synonyms listed along with the definition-  traditionalist, conventional, orthodox, old fashioned, unadventurous, set in one's ways, middle-of-the-road, moderate and stick-in-the-mud. These are indeed words that could be used to describe a large number of people in any USAmerican church. When standing alone, there is nothing wrong with these descriptions. It is fine to be conservative in politics, in dress, in social behavior and in finances. But when paired with the word Christian- the definition of which means one who want to be like Christ- there starts to be an issue. It has come to mean a branch of the faith that is more interested in legalism and judgement than in the amazing love and grace as taught by Jesus. They are more concerned with being right than being holy. It is easy for a Conservative Christian to become a modern day Pharisee.

There was nothing safe, cautious, unadventurous or conventional about Jesus of Nazareth. From his birth story to his visit to temple at age 12 to his earthly ministry, Jesus set out to be an agent of radical change. He stood up for the weak and against the powerful. His harshest words were saved for church leaders who were weighed down by traditions and an unwillingness to change. In fact, he altered traditions and created new ones. He loved the least, the lost and the broken; he broke long-held Jewish Sabbath laws in the name of loving people; and his preaching turned the world of his day upside down. He came that we might be saved and be world changers in his name. By the very definition of the word, there was not a single conservative bone in his body. Even his death was radical and out of the ordinary. To say you are trying to be like Jesus and call your faith journey "conservative" is to label yourself an oxymoron. And no one likes being called a moron...

There is another label I like and use here quite often that has its own problem. Radical Christianity is a great phrase, and in my mind it is what we are called to as we walk the #NarrowRoad. But it is a redundancy. In fact, the only way to practice Christianity as Jesus taught it is to be radical. We don't need both words. The path Jesus leads us on if we follow him is not only narrow, it is full of twists and turns and must be navigated with our throttles wide open. We are to live abundant lives. We are to go onto all the world. We are to love everyone we encounter. We are to make peace, feed the hungry and love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. These things cannot be done conservatively; we have to be all in and open to new experiences and feeling out of control because we allow Jesus to be in control! When we accept Jesus receive the Holy Spirit, we don't try to manage it or control it. We open the floodgates and let what we have been given flow out and alter the world we live in. Does that sound like work for moderate, conventional stick-in-the-muds?

Choose to be conservative with your clothing or in the stock market, with the color scheme of your home or with your political views. All of those are valid options. But Conservative Christian? That's a label that needs to bite the dust and be tossed out like a money-changer in the temple. There are plenty of ways to be morons on the #NarrowRoad. I should know. I've tried most of them. But we need to follow Jesus in ways that are WIDE OPEN and never conservative. It's time for the followers of Christ to be the wild things he intends us to be!

Because of Jesus,


  1. I think this explains my whole life! I completely agree that conservative and radical don't need to be attached to the word Christianity. The word has been misused enough. Adding those words to it doesn't help clear it up.

    1. Andrea, in my old age I am finding more and more that adding ANYTHING to Jesus just muddies the waters.


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