Monday, April 12, 2004

We’re back from Nampa. Nampa reminded me a lot of Denver in terms of landscape and climate, but without the culture. That’s mean, but kind of funny and maybe a little true.

Anyway, we attended a production called “No Greater Love” and Easter services at the Nampa First Church of the Nazarene. “No Greater Love” is based on a musical that was written back in the ‘60s, but has been extensively edited and rewritten by Sarah’s aunt. It is basically a retelling of the life of Jesus with a lot of music. The production was huge – 300+ people in the cast, a full orchestra, massive set, and even a live camel! The story takes place at some point after the resurrection with Paul, Peter, and John ministering to new Christians. A Roman official shows up with an arrest warrant for Paul. Apparently Paul has converted the Roman official’s wife’s sister and slave. The official’s wife wants Paul tried for stealing the slave and corrupting her sister.

The rest of the story is Paul and the apostles (Thomas shows up later) recounting the story of Jesus to the Roman official and his wife. Then, predictably, the official and his wife become Christians and the show has its triumphant ending. Then the senior Pastor got up and did an altar call, more or less.

A couple of thoughts about the show… I think I blogged about this issue last week, but if I didn’t it’s one of the issues Marcus Borg raises in “The Heart of Christianity.” That is, the emphasis of conservative Christianity (what he calls the “traditional view”) on belief. He describes the essential characteristic of the traditional view is of Christians as “believers.” What makes one Christian is holding a particular set of beliefs (particular to your denomination/sect). Those beliefs may include the historical veracity of the Bible, the truth of particular church doctrines, or the truth your flavor of theology. The point being that the emphasis is on belief, not action. It’s not, “they’ll know we’re Christians by our love,” but rather, “they’ll know we’re Christians by what we believe.”

Anyway, back to the show. Paul, Peter and John were trying to convince the Roman official to believe in Jesus. By affirming the truth of the resurrection story the official’s doubt was dispelled. They were convinced that their sin was forgiven despite the fact that they had been horrible people. They were also mourning the death of their child, and questioning how God could allow that to happen. Then the official’s wife’s sister told them that God loved them, and all was well. I know this was just one production, but it really seemed to be theology-lite. It provided simple answers to very complicated questions and really nothing about what happens next. So I became a Christian – so what? What does it mean to be a Christian? The character Paul said several times that God promises a “full” life, but not necessarily a happy one. What does that mean?

The production and altar call was focused on getting people to accept Jesus. But what happens next? How is the church going to care for those people who just came to Jesus? I don’t know why this bothers me so much. I think part of the reason is that it reminds me of experiences with evangelical Christians while I was in high school. They were very concerned about me accepting Jesus – beyond that they didn’t care much about what happened to me. This sort of evangelizing is basically all about getting a one-way ticket to heaven. But to really be a Christian means much more. It seems incredibly irresponsible to tell people that they’ll go to hell if they don’t accept Jesus, but not also tell them about what it means to be an authentic Christian. It’s like those deals where they give you a free trip to somewhere warm with the condition that you hear a sales pitch about buying a time share. It’s the same kind of high-pressure sales tactic and they never tell you what the catch is. I think there must be a more responsible way to do evangelism.

I’ll write about the sermon later.



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