Perhaps you can help explain these intriguing anomalies. For instance, while nearly 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christian, barely half of those 250 million people participate in the faith community of Church. It’s an odd statistic for a faith Jesus intended to be communal and not solo. Or these anomalies: Followers of Jesus are some of the strongest voices against evolution and for a literal reading of Scripture. At the same time, followers of Jesus are some of the strongest voices for broad scientific inquiry, seeing the creation stories as theological truth, not literal fact. Again, some of the strongest voices of a free-market capitalism that favors the wealthy and powerful are Jesus followers while its strongest critics are often Jesus followers who highlight God’s own passion for economic justice for the poor and voiceless.
Time and again, Jesus followers are lined up on opposite sides of key moral and ethical issues that affect life in community. Who are the most nationalistic, militaristic voices in America? Jesus followers.
The strongest critics of those policies and actions? Jesus followers. It’s much the same division over gay rights and gay marriage. The same division over women’s health, reproductive rights, fair and equal wages. Same with national healthcare, capital punishment, civil rights and the ongoing loss of those rights. Followers of Jesus divide over immigration policies and over the role and responsibility of government. Same division rises over gun rights and gun safety. In each case, both sides claim to follow Jesus, but each side, coming to a fork in the road of faith, takes distinctively different paths.
So how can this be? How can those who claim to follow the same leader, the same Savior, the same biblical witness, the same gospel stories come down on sides so separate and so opposite? How can there be such sharp disagreements — especially in American Christianity — about what it means to be a follower of Jesus? Or as the Bible itself asks, how can a house, a faith, a witness so divided, still stand?
The first followers of Jesus, before they were ever called Christians, were simply called people of The Way. Their witness to the world of compassion, service, acceptance, welcome of strangers, and peace even at the risk of their own lives, was so powerful Christianity experienced explosive growth. Perhaps we are at that moment in history when we need the real Jesus to please stand up once more and show us all, once again, The Way that leads to life for all people and not let us settle for such ongoing, destructive, heartbreaking, confusing, never-ending division that leads us away from a truly faithful following of Jesus.