Some Christians think that today is the end of the world as we know it. Taking Bible passages out of context, something that is foolish to do considering the Bible is an ancient book written by many authors, some believe that today is the day that Jesus will return for Christians and take them away to heaven.
At the heart of the problem is fundamentalism. The dictionary definition for fundamentalism is “a form of Protestant Christianity which upholds belief in the strict and literal interpretation of the Bible; and the strict maintenance of the ancient or fundamental doctrines of any religion or ideology.” Forget contextualism, with fundamentalism the Bible is “read off the page” with no regard to its historical and cultural context, as I once heard a seminary professor put it.
Fundamentalism is dangerous. It can dupe people into selling everything they have in order to be ready to be taken to heaven, as is the case of what I dub the “May 21, 2011 crap.” Fundamentalism is also spiritually dangerous, for it tends to overlook biblical passages about taking care of the less fortunate.
An antidote for fundamentalism
The website fundamentalistsrepent.com says that fundamentalist Christianity is “popular because it serves up easy, ready-made answers.” Despite what the media portrays, there are alternatives to fundamentalism.
Consider the words of Jesus’ as written down in the Sermon On the Mount by an anonymous author during the last third of the first century, according to modern New Testament scholars:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
(Matthew 5:43-47, New American Standard Bible)
Instead of responding in anger to those who wrong us, Jesus taught us that we are to love them and pray for them. This is completely opposite of human nature, but it is the essence of what it means to live as a follower of Christ. Following Christ means to love as He loved. Or as Dallas Willard puts it in his book, The Divine Conspiracy, “He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love.”
Loving as Jesus loved means to practice forgiveness. Brian Zahnd, in his book Unconditional: The Call of Jesus To Radical Forgiveness, says, “to be an authentic follower of Jesus we must embrace the centrality of forgiveness.” Christians who embrace love and forgiveness can drown out the nonsense and heresy (in my opinion) of the May 21, 2011 crap and make a difference in the world.
Photo from ideacreamanuelaPps via flickr