Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Gracious Christians

There's a wonderful book by Phillip Gulley and James Mulloland called If Grace is True . In this book, the two authors lay out a universalist Christianity that claims that all will be saved. They make the startling (in traditional Christian circles) claim that there is no hell or Satan. Both authors pastor Quaker churches in the Midwest and originally come from an Evangelical background.

The universalist approach that they take to salvation theology is by no means new. It's always been a minority opinion within the church and has usually been condemned as heresy by both Evangelical and mainline denominations. However, it's a position that has had some mighty impressive followers including Origen, St. Jerome, and in modern times Madeleine L'Engle among others.

In a second book, If God is Love, the authors explore the further implications of a grace-based theology and how gracious Christians would act in the everyday world, including a paradigm for a gracious politics that cares about the poor, the dispossessed, the jailed, and in general "the least of these."

Based on their experiences as pastors, the authors explore a variety of situations and how the Church would respond differently if it truly believed in a loving God. They recount painful experiences with ungracious churches in their youth.

In addition, here's another story of a gracious Christian, Shelby Knox, from Lubbock, Texas. She started as a conservative Southern Baptist. But as a teenager, she noticed that many of her classmates in Lubbock's high schools were getting pregnant and Lubbock has one of the highest rates of Sexually Transmitted Disesases. Lubbock schools taught abstinence only programs.

To Shelby, it was clear that her classmates were not getting adequate information to make informed, responsible decisions and were paying the price with unwanted pregnancies and diseases. And so she began lobbying for better sex education for high school students.

Shelby, personally, does believe in abstinence as the best prevention. However, it's just not realistic to think that every kid is going to be able to stay abstinent until they marry, or are old enough to act more responsibly.

No kid should have to have a kid because they don't know basic protection. And no child should have to suffer with a sexually transmitted disease.

Years ago in my place of employment, we had a program on AIDS/HIV Prevention. After a bunch of health professionals gave very dry and technical speeches, a young man with blond hair that just brushed his collar got up to speak to us. He told us that he was going to show us what AIDS looked like. We, all jaded adults in an urban setting, thought he was going to tell us some sad story about somebody he knew. We got ready to be bored. We'd heard it all.

Then, silently, he just turned himself around and when he was facing us again, he held out his arms, as if to present himself. We realized that this handsome youth, still in high school, still innocent looking, was the face of AIDS. As the meaning of this silent and eloquent witness dawned on the jaded adults in the audience, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

No child should have to risk AIDS because the only education on prevention that they get is "just say no."

Of course abstinence is best, is safest. But there is a next best. And any school that doesn't tell it's teenagers this is guilty of gross negligence.

Gracious Christians like Shelby Knox know this.

1 comment:

sage said...

Let me play devil's advocate here... bad pun, eh? he's the guy getting cut short in the book, IF GRACE IS TRUE.

I haven't read the book, but I think I read several reviews of it when it came out (was it about 3 years old--I should go check, but that'd be too much work).

It seems to me that if there is no hell, what do you do with those people who don't want to go to heaven (think C. S. Lewis, THE GREAT DIVORCE) or with those folks who would destroy heaven if they brought their baggage with them.

What would Don Giovanni do to heaven? Could heaven be heaven without all residents being willing to submit to God?

Is our adversion to hell due to the images we have of it from poets more than from scripture? What scripture passages are metaphorical and what ones are descriptive? If life comes from God, would the absence of God (hell) be eternal punishment or is eternal death just that? Is the fear of hell a good reason to "come to Jesus" or a good reason to modify our behavior? just some thoughts. THanks for your thoughtful posts.