Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quote of the Day: on loving other Christians

I'm reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, and chapter 12 deals with Miller's experience at conservative suburban churches contrasted with his current church, Imago Dei. It's clear he loves his church (and from what I've read and heard, there's good reason), and it's clear that he struggled with the conservative political ideals he found in those conservative suburban churches. As he said on page 131 of my paperback version:
I just felt like, in order to be a part of the [church] family, I had to think George W. Bush was Jesus. And I didn't. I didn't think that Jesus really agreed with a lot of the policies of the Republican Party or for that matter the Democratic Party.
At the end of the chapter, Miller comes to the conclusion (with some help from the Apostle Paul as told by Eugene Peterson) that we need to ask God to help us find a church with people who hold the same interests and values, and let go of any grudges we might have against previous churches.
I had to tell my heart to love the people at the churches I used to go to, the people who were different than me. This was entirely freeing because when I told my heart to do this, my heart did it, and now I think very fondly of those wacko Republican fundamentalists, and I know that they love me, too, and I know that we will eat together, we will break bread together in heaven, and we will love each other so purely it will hurt because we are a family in Christ.
Those lines made me laugh out loud -- which was good, because it kept me from cringing. Am I one of those "wacko Republican fundamentalists"? How do my political positions affect my ability to love "the least of these," and how do they impact others' willingness to let me love them? These are some of the questions I'm asking and praying about.

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  • At 11/29/2007 10:35 PM, Blogger terrance said…


    I think Miller gets it exactly wrong to look for a church with people who hold the same interests and values we do. That's appropriate for social clubs and those who think of religion as a pleasant past time--like canasta.

    But, just think of how opposite from the values of the gospel it would be to say that people should seek out a church with people from the same socio-economic class or ethnic group so as not to be jarred by the differences.

    One of the center points of the gospel is that in Christ even the highest barriers are broken down. (also with help from the Apostle Paul :-)

    Maybe Miller does now feel fondness toward "wacko Republican fundamentalists". But, isn't that like people who say they are really fond of people of a different race or ethnic group but use denigrating phrases or terms about them? I'm not so sure about how real such fondness is.

    And it comes nowhere near loving the other person. Christ's command was not to be fond of one another, but to love one another.

  • At 12/05/2007 11:14 AM, Blogger Ken said…


    At the risk of downplaying God's ability to bring people together, I think your thoughts sound great in theory, but I'm not sure they're realistic. People seek out churches in their socio-economic class or ethnic group all the time, because that's where they feel most comfortable, and where some of the distractions of life can be ignored while drawing closer to the Creator.

    Obviously, God can break down barriers, and I think Miller appreciates the concept of bringing disparate interests together. There is tremendous value in delving beyond your comfort zone to embrace people from other walks of life (something I admittedly am not good at doing). But I think it's difficult and somewhat unfair to expect people not to join with those holding like-minded values.

    Miller makes the point elsewhere in the book that too often, people feel judged when they enter a church. Should that happen? Honestly, it depends on whether the judgment comes from man or from God, but too often it's the former rather than the latter.

    I wonder if you're reading Miller's words as saying you should pick a church with the same beliefs about scripture? If so, I didn't read it that way -- I thought he was saying you should choose a church where you feel like you "fit in." And I see nothing wrong with that.

    I think the "wacko Republican" line was a bit tongue in cheek, but the fact remains that there are many followers of Christ who do not embrace Republican values, and there are many Republican followers of Christ who think less of those people. Miller struggled with feeling judged by those people and with the conflict between what he heard from their mouths and what he read in his Bible. I think it's healthy to examine human motives by the light of scripture, and that's what I think Miller did by exploring the idea of finding a church with similar values.

  • At 12/09/2007 2:46 AM, Blogger terrance said…


    You're right that seeking out people like ourselves is the easiest, most common practice there is.

    But, if Christianity requires loving and forgiving one's enemies, isn't worshipping next to someone with a different political view easy in comparison to that?

    Since the 1960's our nation has been working hard on integration and valuing other ethnic groups and their values. If we can do it in secular society, why not in our churches?

    It would sound silly to say, "I would rather not work with that guy because he doesn't share my political values." And we work with people 40 hours a week and often face to face--not just a couple of hours on Sunday sitting in the next chair or pew.

    I guess what I find inscrutable is the need to flee when one is in a minority in some area of life. It seems immature--and a little bit ugly American in expecting everyone else to conform to one's own ways in order to feel comfortable and accepted.

    That's probably not fair to Miller. It's just how the passage strikes me.

    Just on a practical level, there's immense value in working with and learning from people who are different from you.

    It's accepted practice in business, education and general social interaction. Is it really so difficult in church life?


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