Cry out, Isaiah!, says God.
Cry out! You, who bring good tidings … you, who have good news: get up, climb up onto a high mountain. And there, lift up your voice with strength. Use your outdoor voice. Do not be afraid. Do not be quiet. Get over your Lutheran shyness. Speak up! Shout your glad tidings for all the world to hear:
But we do not. We are quiet Christians. We, progressive Christians, we are way too quiet. We are demure. We are reserved and reticent about shouting, about speaking the good news. It is not polite to cry out about religion, we are thinking.
But there is a problem. A real problem. The problem is that there is so much bad religion. Lots of bad religion. And it is loud.
From bumper stickers to the incessant, round-the-clock preaching of Televangelists. From radio preachers to the bill boards that line the highways and byways of this country. All of them shouting that if you do not get their religion, you are going to hell. That God is angry … full of vengeance and judgment. They are shouting damnation and punishment and hellfire.
They shout for women to keep silence in church. They shout about Creationism, for God’s sake. For LGBT folk to straighten up or go to hell. Like the Arizona preacher. Last Sunday, in his sermon he called for an AIDS-free Christmas. The way to an AIDs-free Christmas is to kill gays. His sermon is all over the internet. He is all over the internet. His religion. His cruelty.
The media—traditional media and social media—are megaphones for bad religion. Bad religion, mean religion, is everywhere, and it is loud.
All the while, God is aching for us—aching that we, who bring good news, bearers of good tidings—get up, climb up onto a high mountain. And there, lift up our voices. Raise our voices. Use our outdoor voices. God aches for us to get over our Lutheran shyness. Speak up! Shout our glad tidings for all the world to hear:
There are those who believe that the answer to bad religion is less religion. That is never going to happen. Nor is it the answer. What is needed is more good religion … louder good religion. What is needed is to find a way to shout our good news louder and brighter than do the purveyors of bad religion.
Cry out: That God is still speaking. That we, who are made in the image and likeness of God, are made co-creators with God. Cry out that God is more mercy than judgment. Cry out, oh you progressive Christians … get your outdoor voices on.
Cry out that Christian faith is not a set of creeds. It is way of life. Cry out that Christian faith is living in the presence of God. It is practicing seeing the world through God’s eyes.
Cry out that Christian faith is a way of life. It is living in love and fellowship with all God’s children and God’s good earth … in love and fellowship with all that God has made and all that God loves.
Cry out that Christian faith is living as a dual citizen: we each have one foot on earth and the other in heaven.
Cry out! Shout aloud the good news that Christian faith is not about adherence to ancient dogma. Rather, it is an attitude. It is the attitude of living with faith in God, in God’s future, in life after death)
Christian faith is an attitude. It is choosing to live with hope (despair is killing; hope is life-giving). Living with hope is a decision, an act of defiance and determination. It is choosing to live with hope, despite all the evidence the contrary.
Cry out that Christian faith is an attitude. It is living with love (not judgment) as a fundamental, not-up-for-dispute way of relating to others and to one’s self.
Here is the problem. You are too quiet about. We are too quiet.
Now, Old South is trying to shout these things to the world… we do it with our open door. Over ten thousand people come through our doors each month. If they look hard enough, they will see our theological commitments: our ministries of mercy, justice and beauty … of radical hospitality …. our wide open door,
When, as often happens, they read or hear of our affirmation of LGBT folk, and they experience confusion, even anger, and reel out of the church, huffing and puffing, Reggie Wynn sets them straight: He just tells them that at Old South we don’t hate, we appreciate.
Old South Church shouts out God’s good news through our web page and social media. We are trying.
But, the truth is, in the hearing of the wide world, we are barely a whisper. Old South is not a shout. At best, we are a muffled murmur.
The studies are crystal clear: When people between the ages of 18 and 29 are asked about Christianity, asked: What words come to mind when you think of Christians? Their answers are as clear as crystal and as uniform as a lined parking lot: homophobic, judgmental, boring, intellectually stifling, and anti-science.
Shame on us … that they have not heard from us … have not heard the good tidings we bring.
Lots of bad religion. Loud bad religion. Preachers who contort God’s good tidings into self-loathing and guilt, into cringing, terrified humans … humans who, like Pavlov’s dogs, learn to cower in the presence of God.
The answer to bad religion isn’t less religion. It is more good religion, louder good religion.
It was Isaiah’s charge to get up high, climb up onto a mountain, step by step, rock by rock, to find a vantage, a high vantage and from there lift up his voice with all his strength and tell it true.
But that was then, and this is now. Climbing mountains will not do, not today. Communications-wise, mountains are old school.
Instead—here is your charge, you adaptive, progressive Christians—each of you: speak the good news to ten people.
Seth Godin, the internet guru, has a new book out: New Bestseller: What To Do When It is Your Turn. It is our turn. Isaiah took his turn and took it wonderfully … All these millenia later, we can still hear him. It is our turn … and mountains are antiquated formats for speech.
Instead: find your voices, you adaptive and progressive Christians … find your voices, find your courage … and tell ten people.
Tell them this: that God loves them and there is not one thing they can do about that.
Say that God is still speaking … and the church is listening.
Tell ten people that God is a God of mercy … more mercy than judgment
Tell them that in heaven there is no border between Mexico and the US or between Israel and Palestine.
Tell them that these are human concoctions, born of our brokenness and sin.
Tell them that in heaven there is neither citizen nor immigrant … just children of God.
Tell about the God who frees the enslaved … no other God will do that.
Tell them that you put your faith in God and science.
Tell them that among our church’s most treasured leaders—among our deacons and moderators, our teachers and committee chairs—are LGBT persons who bring precious gifts to ministry … whose lives and talents and families are a cornucopia of blessedness.
Tell them that the life of the Christian is anything but boring. Tell them it is challenging and life-changing. It is dangerous, risky. Tell them that, on occasion, the Christian life is even heroic.
Tell them about the God who loves the unlovely.
Tell them of the God who opens prison doors.
Tell them of the God who binds up the broken-hearted with tender ministrations
Tell them about the God who is far more Jewish mother than angry despot, whose delight is to feed her hungry children and to provide them with every good gift.
Tell them, tell ten people about the God for whom forgiveness is forever. There is no end to it.
Tell them of the God whose grace has no end, no bounds. And, whose grace if free, boundless and free.
Tell ten people. Each of you. It is our turn. For God’s sake, will you tell them?