My mom and dad, Melba and Gerald Lucas, are Episcopalian and they raised me Episcopalian and they are two of the greatest Christians that I have ever known. My mom, though she know longer believes in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation taught accounting at the community college level and I have never seen anyone with more compassion or dedication to her students, irrespective of how they treated her. My Dad, grew up in stark poverty in various boroughs of New York and through nothing but stalwart faith got into the most prestigious high schools in Brooklyn. I remember my father telling me a story in which he went to a normal school for boys in his age group and when he saw what kind of work they were doing he told his mother that there is no way that he would attend that school. My dad went on attend college, get his MBA, and become a top executive without ever garnering financial support from anyone for anything. My Dad believes in the Trinity and says, “Well if you want to say you’re a Christian, then you got to claim the Trinity”. He is a big fan of Karen Armstrong and advocates for productive interfaith dialogue. Both my parents are pro-choice, affirming of Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered, and Bisexuals, and very progressive on other political fault lines of decision.
In Contrast, my friend Della Bryant is a charismatic evangelical who believes that Barack Obama might be a muslim, but who has greater faith in and love for Jesus and his body than I think anyone I have ever met. This woman will be broke and in torrid neck pain and pray for another believer before praying for herself. And even though she believes in eternal damnation she is constantly praying that God will hopefully soon bring about the restoration of all.
Readers of this Blog. I grew up Episcopalian, I sent my daughter to Catholic School, I studied with Methodists, I joined a Presbyterian church, I have had a Catholic Therapist, I have a Quaker Mentor, and I usually worship at Charismatic Evangelical churches because their lively praise and worship of Jesus heals and invigorates my soul. So I can tell you in a clear conscience that WE ARE ALL SAVED!!! I have yet to spend some time with any dimension of the body of Christ and not feel the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is possible that when talking to an Episcipalian you might feel the holy spirit as you discuss whether or not Obama should have pushed harder for the public option in his healthcare bill whereas with a charismatic evangelical you will probably feel the holy spirit as they discuss how Jesus is miraculously taking them through the trials and tribulations of their life, but in both cases I have felt the very same holy spirit.
I used to be very hard on my charismatic evangelic brothers and sisters who believed in eternal damnation, because that particular doctrine destroys any possibility of all of us just being able to agree to disagree. That particular doctrine creates such high stakes for error, that any error in thought a person might have becomes a sentence to eternal torment. In my opinion, there are two doctrines that keep the body of Christ in a state of discord and disharmony. One is eternal damnation or the belief that a loving God would sentence his sons and daughters made in his image to an eternity of horrific pain just because they did not acknowledge his son. The Other is pluralism or the belief that all the religions say the exact same thing, there is nothing unique to Jesus and that he is just some master-soul among many who lived a great life. In most cases eternal damnation afflicts evangelicals and pluralism the more high church folks like Catholics, Episcopalians,, Quakers, etc.
Both of these deceptions, pluralism and eternal damnation draw different contingents in the body of Christ to align with unbelievers against believers usually in some political way. So you might have a contingent of new age and Episcopalian protesters for gay rights facing of against some evangelical protesters who are against gay marriage. This would be relatively innocuous, if there wasn’t usually some real venomous thought and emotion going on among all sides about the issue. And let this happen for 100 years, the length of time that fundamentalism and the social gospel have been in vogue and what you get is one half of the body of Christ that is convinced that the other half of the body of Christ is stupid, or worse you get one side of the body of Christ who believes that the other side of the body of Christ is hell bound forever.
But a Eastern/New Ager Type friend of mine Roxana once told me that we are in the age of Aquarius the most golden age in human history. Because I believe that Roxana and many like her may in fact walk in a sense of knowledge about times and seasons I agree with her that despite what our circumstances may be telling us, we are definitely coming into a new age of bliss and heaven on earth for all people. It is my belief that the Body of Christ or those who believe in Jesus will lead the way of this “Great Awakening” as we serve in love and share the message of our savior. But right now Evangelicals are depicting Episcopalians as like apostate frozen chosen infidels and Episcopalians are depicting Evangelicals like village idiots who needed to at least get their GED before they started preaching the gospel.
At this point you might be expecting a solution? Well here is not a solution, but a beginning.
We thank you for every Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic Evangelical on the earth. We acknowledge that in a spirit of 1 Corinthian 14 we are all serving you and bringing you glory. Now we ask that you destroy the deceptions among us that would keep us separate and hostile toward each other. We ask that you bless us to love one another and ourselves with that kind of invincible, unconditional love that only you can give. Please help us to dialogue with honesty and humility in such a way so as to find common ground on the issues that separate us and in cases where no common ground is possible bless us to lovingly agree to disagree. Lord God please bless us to forgive ourselves and Christendom for the horrors of the past without losing compassion for those who feel the pain of those wrongs. And Lastly Lord God, please miraculously bless us to stop speaking evil of each other in public settings as though we all do not possess the same Savior. Thank you so much Lord God for your love for the body of Christ and for all humanity and thank you for what will soon be upon us.
In Jesus Name. Amen.