Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Cultural Ethic

If you need more evidence that the notion that Christians should be "interfaith" is a cultural one and not a Christoform one, let's talk about this: 

How do you feel about what's going on in Afghanistan right now? 

I have some pastor friends and even influencers who love to talk about how important it is that we stand next to our "Muslim brothers and sisters" and protect their freedom to worship and even work together with them on projects in our community. (Actually, this last one is not a bad idea - I think Paul would approve, in most cases. There would be exceptions.) Anyway, these pastors have deliberately gone out and made themselves "interfaith" leaders in their communities and have become the Christian witness that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims and Jews and Sikhs and atheists to declare the need for faith, in general, in our world. 

But a few weeks ago, when the Taliban announced that they would be taking Afghanistan back to Shariah law - to the strict, often harsh law code that they have built around their understanding of their holy scriptures (much like the law of our Old Testament, which also seems harsh), these very same pastors were among the first to condemn them. 

You can't go back to cutting off the hands of thieves or executing those found in adultery! You can't go back to silencing women and keeping them covered all the time! You can't live by this kind of law!

Why not? 

This law is as much a part of their worship - as much a part of their faithful life - for them as is, say, prayer. Or going to the mosque. Or any of the dozens of ways that the Muslim people worship here in America that we are so quick to defend. That we are so ready to say they ought to be able to do. We not only defend their practices here; we affirm them. 

See, even as "interfaith" Christians, the truth is that we're only interfaith so long as the faiths that we're standing with are culturally appropriate to us. As long as what they're doing doesn't bother us too much. As long as they don't offend our American sensibilities. But let them go against what our culture has said is good and appropriate, and all of a sudden, we're bothered by it. 

We can't believe a people would ever adopt a law so strict as the one being adopted right now in Afghanistan, and yet, as Christians in America, we don't worry about the Muslim faith's lack of a law of grace. Hey, they don't believe in grace? That's fine. Wait...they want to enact Shariah law? No way. 

We're talking about the Muslim faith here, but the truth is that we do this with other faiths, as well. If they are not culturally offensive to our American ways of justice, equality, and freedom, then we not only defend their "right" to worship the way that they want to; we affirm it. We call ourselves "interfaith" and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone and everyone who claims to want a place for "faith," in general, in the world. But the minute justice, equality, or freedom is at stake, we turn and condemn the very same things we claim we've been fighting for. 

What's frustrating about this, for me, is that we don't do the same when Christian principles are at stake. When the ways that other peoples worship ought to offend our Christian sensibilities, we are very quick to push that aside and say, well, we can't claim a monopoly on truth. We don't have all the answers. We don't know the right ways. This is America, and everyone should be free to worship the way that they want. 

Wait...what was that last one? What was that one that rolled so easily off the tongue? Oh, that's right. 

Proof positive that what we're dealing with when we talk about being an "interfaith" people is not a Christian ethic; it's a cultural one. And that is heartbreaking. 

It is heartbreaking to hear how many times Christians today say, well, this is America instead of putting our feet down and saying, well, this is the church. This is the truth. This is the way. This is the life.

This is the love of Christ, which is unmatched in all the cultures of the world...including our own. 

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