So here I am, sitting at my parents' kitchen table, eating a burrito and drinking a beer, half-watching the World Baseball Classic (Korea is SLAMMING Venezuela -- including my beloved Marco Scutaro -- 7-0 in the 2nd inning) while I do some web browsing, and I come across a blog called Stuff Christians Like. The topic under discussion is...subtly finding out if you drink beer, too. Clearly these folks are not Episcopalian.
I'm reading through the 54 comments (seriously) that are (seriously) discussing things like "In our culture with children/teens/adults drinking & getting drunk, a Christian drinking could be a stubling block" and "here where I live, in the ULTRA conservative Bible belt, there are LOTS of weaker "finger pointers", so, NOT even worth it in my small town. They'll gossip and slander about someone having a glass of wine."
Most painful is the anonymous posting by a pastor who LOVES a glass of wine as he is cooking and says Guiness Stout is "pure deliciousness," but drinks them on the q.t. "It's funny - the edict has been handed down to me and my wife at our church that we MUST BE teetotallers. OK fair enough. I'm not into offending anyone. On the other hand, I find it amusing to discover more and more folks (fine, servant-hearted, true believing folks) in our congregation who enjoy a beer at the barbecue or while out fishing; who enjoy an occasional glass of wine at a meal; or even *gasp* the occasional shot of vodka."
No. Not "fair enough." I think this is a huge problem. Perhaps the big problem with much of Christianity: the huge emphasis on appearing to be Christian.
A while back I preached a sermon in which I pointed out that Paul was a deregulator. That didn't work so well for him, either; see Corinth. But he believed in it anyway. And all of these suggestions that Paul made to help people get along within their communities have become the very laws he deplored.
Goodness knows deregulation is not the easy way to go. But the problem with sticking to a template for appearing to be Christian is that you are always going to find someone who doesn't fit. And then what happens? Or you've got someone who fits the template perfectly but...there's something not right about them. What about then?
A couple of days ago, I heard a podcast with Christine Wicker who wrote a book called The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. It was very painful as she described her inability to return to church, but was not quite able to articulate why. Personally, I suspect it is because she knows exactly how to look Christian, but she doesn't know how to be herself in church. That's my hunch.