The past 18 months have seen a country and its religious leaders, who call themselves Christian, abase and abuse that word and what it stands for in a quest for influence and power. This has grieved me on several levels, not the least of which is the damage it does to the gospel. Nevertheless, I am unwilling to surrender the term and retreat to a perhaps more comfortable Deistic Humanism. Christianity is what gives me hope, and therefore I wish to reaffirm why and what it is that I cannot let go.
First, I believe in the power of forgiveness and reconciliation. No matter what evils have been done, people who practice true forgiveness are able to overcome, and they shine the divine light through the darkness. Every time I see it, it strikes me anew as miraculous, powerful, and so thoroughly Good. *This* is the Gospel. Forgiveness and Reconciliation made flesh. Forgiveness does not ignore evil nor the damage it causes, but it refuses to let the damage control the future or to remain a pattern for continued behavior.
I believe in the power of weakness, the paradox of the transforming strength of powerlessness, the active choice to reject control over others. Power is seductive and corrupting–if we needed a reminder of that, the actions of Evangelicals in the US this year have adequately affirmed it.
I believe that God is present everywhere there is suffering, but more importantly, everywhere there is an act of kindness, mercy, and love. He is in the people rescuing refugees from the waves, in the Tube passenger talking to a Muslim women to protect her from abuse, in the rows of guardians blocking Westboro Baptist picketers from LGBT funerals. More important than any intellectual assent is the action that creates communion. He is in a meal offered to an enemy even more than in any affirmation of credo.
These give me the hope to press on. Humanity has always been terrible. Yet these moments of the presence of God have also always been there. However it all pans out in the big picture, I have to affirm the power and importance of the instances of kindness, mercy, love, forgiveness, and of powerlessness. This is how I understand the Crucifixion. And this is why I will not surrender the term Christian to the Fundamentalist and Evangelicals and will press on, trying to learn to live it better.