You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. – John 8:32
In the Gospels, the anger of Jesus is primarily expressed in his frustration towards the religious leaders of his time for their hypocrisy. When asked, many Americans would agree with Jesus that the primary reason they believe in God and would identify as “spiritual” but not religious is because churches do not practice what they preach.
While rushing to use the tools of pop culture to attract a new generation into the church, will emerging churches let the fullness of their theological perspective be visible or will their ultimate message be submerged and subliminated in the same way that advertising embeds its sales pitch? Will this “hidden” theology do spiritual harm to those who do not fit the preferred norms of the target market?
Ecclesia in Houston, TX is a church that may be emblematic of this challenge. With pop music, multi-media ministry, an emphasis on the arts and a sense that the hip and cool find home here, what happens when a gay or lesbian person or a woman who chooses abortion as a solution to an unplanned pregnancy discovers that the theology and doctrine of this church are synonymous with the rigid fundamentalism of the Southern Baptist Convention. Will any of those young adults recognize they had joined a fundamentalist Christian church with cooler music and worship? With an all male leadership, what happens when a woman feels called to serve as an elder or pastor? Is it obvious that this “hip” church is also one of “those” churches?
For those of us who have chosen to be fully candid and truthful about our identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, the value of being “truthful” cannot be overstated. We do not choose our orientation, but we do choose to claim ourselves as children of God who are willing to claim boldly: God doesn’t make mistakes and God created me and continues to lead and guide my life. Ecclesia is located in the middle of Montrose, a large and vibrant l/g/b/t neighborhood in Houston. What will happen at Ecclesia during this Sunday’s (June 29th) gay pride celebration and march? (the march will pass only two blocks from Ecclesia’s multi-purpose building) Why did Ecclesia choose a location in the heart of the l/g/b/t community? From their website, it isn’t clear why this location was chosen and what that choice means. As a person who lives with a certain level of marginalization by church and society, it is pretty hard to fathom why this faith group that is likely to be hostile to l/g/bt people has planted itself in the middle of one of the rare places where there is some ease for l/g/b/t folks to gather and have community.
These are just questions. Since I no longer live in Houston, there isn’t an opportunity for dialogue, but I still wonder whether or not many of the congregations who have intentionally begun to mimic the inclusive nature of pop culture are fully truthful about the theological commitments hidden behind the hype.