Smoking Pot or the Cross?
Today’s 4/20. And today at exactly 4:20 pm, all over Colorado, tens of thousands will gather to publicly smoke and toke weed. Why? Well, not sure to be honest – but they will….
I’ll get back to pot, but wanted to tell about my day yesterday. It was a strange day.
I’ve been in a challenging email conversation with three of my very favorite Muslim friends. All big-time leaders in their respective spheres. Saudi. Lebanon and one here in the States. Tons of mutual love and respect between us. Many times they press me on what I believe and why. This time it’s been my turn. I’ve pushed hard on the issue of the cross and resurrection of Christ. I think it only benefits them if they knew and understood what it meant then and means now. One basically agrees. One is being nice to me. And one is pushing back. Those odds are about right…..
Also yesterday, I met a local church Pastor of Outreach. It’s a large and well-respected church. He’s had a bunch of people recently ask me about my book “Speaking of Jesus: the Art of NOT-evangelism.” So he read it. And doesn’t approve. He tells his folks not to read it because it’s dangerous.
He wrote a 1 star review on Amazon. I have four negative reviews (one or two star). And 63 positive ones (four or five star). Five folks couldn’t really decide so gave it a 3 Star.
I invited him for coffee. Bought him coffee and gave him my other book – Muslims, Christians and Jesus – and said, “You won’t like this one either, but I wanted you to have it.” He was gracious but resolute in his decision that my book would ultimately harm his people and the cause of Christ.
We talked for an hour and a half. I’d summarize his two main concerns as this: 1. There wasn’t closure to my stories so he didn’t know if the people had “fully been saved” or not. 2. There wasn’t a clear demonstration of what he called “the gospel” which is a version of the Four Spiritual Laws: basically that God loves us, we’re sinful, Jesus died, and we can know God through Jesus. (All of which I agree).
I reminded him that the subtitle of the book was “The art of NOT evangelism.” This really honestly is not a book about “evangelizing” people. It’s not about converting them. It’s not about Christianity. It’s not about making disciples or church or lots of other great things. It’s simply about ….Speaking of Jesus…..
We had a nice talk. He’s a good guy. Loves God a lot and wants to protect his people from reading things that might hurt them. Which, by the way, seemed to be a long list…including my stuff. Fair enough. I told him that I’d be happy for people to read his stuff and go to his church and “evangelize” people in his style.
But what’s funny is that I had spent most of the day talking about the cross with my other three friends – but he hadn’t seen that. Didn’t know it. And I didn’t tell him. I tried reminding him that Jesus also wasn’t good at “explaining the gospel” in the way that he wanted. Or “closing the deal” either. Jesus didn’t do a lot of things we do today.
Back to pot smoking. It almost seems like the western world is splitting into two camps: the lovers of “tolerance” and the lovers of “truth.” The Rodney King theology of “Why can’t we just all get along” and the theology of the conservative evangelicals, “this is THE truth, I know it and you don’t.” And there’s not much middle ground.
So well-meaning-folks like this pastor yesterday is worried that I might have gone over to the dark side of tolerance. That I want what all those smoking pot today at the Boulder campus of CU want. Tolerance. Get Along theology. Live and let live. This pastor was nervous that I might have read and (gasp) liked Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins.” He was worried that I was “avoiding persecution.” He even asked me if I’ve “experienced a lot of persecution.” A trick question indeed. He was afraid I was Emergent. Postmodern. Tolerant. Maybe even a pot-smoker myself, since we all know that’s where those things ultimately lead.
While my three Muslim friends were sure I’d turned into a right-wing Neocon Bible Thumper. And we know where that leads – to arguments and division. And ultimately to being named Newt or Sarah.
So are those our choices? Really? To either be wishy-washy and tolerant, or hard-nosed and mean spirited? Hopefully not. Isn’t there another way? A way to be loving, kind and still stand for something that others won’t always agree with?
I know that I seek that place of the radical middle ground. Where sometimes I’m seen as a hard-nosed evangelist calling people to a new and better way, and later that same day am seen as a wimpy push-over who won’t give a straight answer. And the truth is – I’m both.
And I think Jesus was both as well….