"I Should Have Known He was a Christian."

The other day my wife went to our local Books A Million bookstore.  She was looking for something that she couldn't buy on her Kindle for half of the price of a regular book.  While she was standing at the counter talking with the clerk a man in his early 60's stormed into the store and up the counter.  He was angry and rude.  "Where is THAT BOOK ON HELL?" He demanded in a loud voice.  The clerk was taken aback, but began to explain that they had tens of thousands of books and that he was going to have to narrow it down a bit. 

The angry man revealed that he went to one of the local large Southern Baptist Churches in the area and that his pastor wanted the entire congregation to read this particular book which had been written by a young pastor who was a "heretic."  My wife who had just finished reading the book in question--Love Wins by Rob Bell--told the clerk which book the man was looking for. 

The store did not have it in stock and the man grumbled loudly and stomped out of the store slamming the doors on his way.  The clerk asked my wife what the heck had just happened since she had been aware of the book.  She explained the basic premise of Love Wins and also explained that some Christians had a real problem with the book.   (Here is my review of the book by the way)

"Oh," the young clerk replied.  "I should have known he was a Christian."

Recently Franklin Graham the son of the world's most famous preacher, Billy Graham, appeared on national television in a variety of venues where he not only waded into the whole "birther" issue regarding President Obama's birth certificate, he also called Bell a heretic and a false teacher. 

My guess is that Graham has never read any of Bell's books or heard him preach.  And I guarantee he's probably never really read C.S. Lewis and has probably never even heard of N.T. Wright--both orthodox evangelical theologians = were foundational in Bell's theological discourse on heaven, hell and salvation in Love Wins.   

On top of all of this, Graham looked and sounded like a slightly less agitated version of the guy in the Books A Million.  After listening to him, I am sure that even Bill O'Reilly who interviewed him was probably saying, "I should have known he was a Christian." 

What a contrast between Graham the elder and Graham the younger.  Billy Graham was soundly rejected by the same fundamentalist, evangelical elite that his son now seems to want to lead.  He was rejected by them because he sought interfaith, and ecumenical dialogue.  He was rejected by them because of his "soft" theology when it came to grace and mercy.  I know this firsthand because I grew up hearing it in the fundamentalist, evangelical churches that I attended in my youth. 

"I should have known he was a Christian." 

I have colleagues who have decided that they want to so distance themselves from people like Graham, the guy in the Books A Million and his pastor that they essentially become Christian apologizers rather than apologists.   To these colleagues, there is no absolute truth, Jesus is just one way of knowing God, and it's perfectly all right to preach a sermon to their congregation from the Q'ran rather than the Bible.  One of these colleagues of mine actually compared Osama Bin Laden to Jesus, who was also executed "by the Empire" for being "a terrorist." 

At least no one will say of him, "I should have known he was a Christian," right? 

There's got to be something else.  There's got to be a middle ground between the extremism of the Christian Right and the Christian Left. 

Honestly, I felt like Rob Bell broached that middle ground.  I feel like there are many others who are doing the same.  I am not ashamed to call myself a Christian.  I am not ashamed of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I do believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to God expect through him.  How that happens--how God saves, I mean---is not my doing.  All things are possible with God, after all. 

In other words, while I am not ashamed of preaching Jesus and him crucified, while I am not ashamed to say with conviction that I absolutely believe in the bodily resurrection of the Risen Christ and that Jesus is Lord I don't do so with triumph or belligerence.

And in the end, I would love it if someone was able to see the evidence of Jesus in my life and would be able to say with joy and gladness, "I should have known he was a Christian." 


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