The Twin Evils of Light Beer and Light Christianity

Last week, we participated in one of the most unique elections, certainly in my lifetime. We re-elected our president in the midst of the lowest economic situation since the Great Depression. In my state of Washington, we effectively legalized pot and we sanctified same-sex marriage. With these rulings fresh in my mind, a conversation I had this morning made me stop dead in my tracks.

I was officially asked if I would be able to contribute to an organization pedaling Christianity light. I am not making a hyperbole.

Christianity light, in the explanation I received, has to do with a swath of very worthy causes, provided they do not encroach into areas such as politics and theological distinctions. Christianity light is about doing good to people on the level of ethical neutrality. In other words, we can be about feeding the hungry and clothing the homeless, but the idea is to stay silent when more controversial issues such as abortion, gay rights, drugs, and the economy rear their ugly heads. After all, Christianity light reasons, we certainly do not want to offend any of our followers.

Now, to be fair to this organization, there is a great amount of good that they have been able to accomplish through the years. Hungry people have eaten food, women have been saved from breast-cancer, and they have even invested contributions into the environment. In short, the world is a little bit better on some of these counts. And more than anything, the founders and employees of the organization have been able to be kind to the world around them. They mean well, they really do. And it is always refreshing to be among even idealistic crusaders for good.

A Call Beyond Ethical Neutrality

But with the events of the last week still fresh in my mind, I keep coming back to the basic ethical question of the Christian life. What does faith look like as it is lived out in every sphere of life? Is there some limit to the influence of Christ? Does our Christian life prescribe caring for the poor and yet choosing intentional indifference to the children of the poor being the most susceptible to abortion? Is it right to defend and protect children in the Sudan while turning a deaf ear to the genocide that takes place under the care of doctors who come after the tradition of the Hippocratic Oath, which strictly forbids an abortive remedy?

Christianity light, in all its various forms, is a faith that extends to a pet project that will be met with universal appreciation. But the Christianity that flows from a heart captured by the whole Christ ventures into unpopular waters. True Christianity is as different from Christianity light as is drinking a Guinness compared to a Michelob Ultra.  A Guinness is a statement of flavor that you may or may not want to drink, but it is bold. People tolerate Michelob Ultra, but I can tell you that nobody has ever been as disappointed as a Guinness drinker to find that his or her favorite beer is out of stock. They are loyal. They are committed.

The call of Christ is not a call to do good so much as it is a call to become good. In becoming good, we are forced to explore where we have yet to let the kingdom of God seep in. Have we considered, for ourselves, a Christian ethic of economics? Or abortion? Or capitol punishment? Or same-sex marriage? There is a quality of strength to the call of Christ that does not allow us to stay in the middle, indifferent to the groaning of all creation as we struggle for the kingdom of God to come.

What Christianity Light has to do with Love and Hate

In the midst of a conversation about love and hate, Christianity light stands out as the true opponent to love. It is when we are indifferent to those around us that we are moving further and further away from our call to love God and one another. The Christian ethic of love does not allow us to choose popular pet projects to hang our hats on. We are being called into a sort of kingdom loyalty that re-forms us. Of all people, we cannot tolerate a knock-off version of Christianity that does not follow Christ into the depths.

Jesus is not as big on tolerance, on indifference, on picking-and-choosing as we have become. Christianity light is the type of buffet philosophy the church in Laodicea was once guilty of. The words of Jesus are chilling. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.
 
The problem with Christianity light is that it will never make a dent in the world because it approaches people as pet projects, while failing to see the whole picture. Can we fail to see that poverty is connected with the economy and with abortion? Is it difficult to see that same-sex marriage and marijuana are connected to the state of our culture as a whole? How can we claim to follow Christ on one hand and refuse to let the kingdom of God address each area of our hearts and lives on the other?

True Christianity calls for a type of love that is strong enough to pervade every aspect of life. For the Christian, everything from money to unborn life is in the hands of God. Love pursues the good of all with a type of abandon to which Christianity light can never aspire.

Christianity light will always hold a lure for us but it will never bring us life. It is, in the words of Michael Horton, Christianity without Christ.

In the end, it always reveals itself for what it is, a lousy knock-off of the real thing.

Don’t be fooled. Settle for nothing less than the real thing.

4 thoughts on “The Twin Evils of Light Beer and Light Christianity

  1. Pingback: Critiquing Christ’s Church …actually, I mean me « Resting in His Grace

  2. Such strong medicine. It’s an interesting question to ask ourselves as believers: Will anybody oppose us in our “cause” of the moment?

    If the answer is no (such as fighting hunger, poverty, picking up trash), then we can be pretty sure that, while this may be a worthy cause, it’s a click away from the heart of the gospel.

    Think Carey, Wilburforce, Luther, even MLK… Fierce opposition, powerful change.

  3. There’s a glaring problem with your argument: Jesus never said a thing about abortion, same-sex marriage, marijuana, or national economics (other than pay your taxes); however, He said a whole lot about feeding the hungry, helping the sick, teaching peace, and hanging out with ‘sinners.’ Maybe what you describe as “Christianity light” is just the purer form of Christianity. Remember who were the persecutors back in His day? Food for thought.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Lucas!

      I hear you on what Jesus said, and for the record, hanging out with sinners in particular is about my favorite thing in the world! I do think that as people of the kingdom of God, however, that it is our responsibility to think deeply about how we live in our own context. To pretend that the choices we make every day that range from something as seemingly harmless as burning one down, to as pressing and important as protecting innocent lives, are without the upmost of meaning is to miss what it means to embrace the gospel for our time.

      That is not to say that I know for sure which party line Jesus would vote for on election day, but I have come to identify the cowardice in my own mind as I refuse to let the gospel change how I see everything.

      Hope that makes sense! Just where I am finding myself on the journey! Thanks for your thoughts.

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