Thursday, August 12, 2010

Big Tent Christianity and The Sneetches

I was invited to write a blog entry as part of a synchroblog event leading up to the Big Tent Christianity conference being held in NC in September. Some of my favorite speakers and authors will be there, but it is nearly a continent away, so I won't be able to make it. The focus of the conference seems to be - how to get Christians together in some semblance of unity, despite coming to Christ from radically different worldviews. The questions for the blog are:

What does “big tent Christianity” mean to you? What does it look like in your context? What are your hopes and dreams for the Church?

From my view, the church has always had one fundamental Achilles' heel. Its members cannot help but see themselves as "in" while others are "out". Typical solutions to this situation have been to be more stern, or more relevant, or more entertaining, or more... whatever... so that we can get a growing number of folks "in" with us. The goal is to get people in.

This foundational attitude creates the dichotomy which Dr. Seuss so brilliantly gave example to in his book "The Sneetches". There were Sneetches with stars on their bellies... and those who lacked "stars upon thars". Like the Pharisee and the tax collector praying before the temple, the star-bellied sneetches were grateful for their stars and thought less of those without.

So what is my hope for the church?

At the conclusion of the Sneetches story, the various Sneetches are running through a machine - either trying to get stars added to their bellies or stars removed. The star-bellied Sneetches are desperately trying to remain distinguished so that the lines drawn between the inner and outer groups can remain. In the end, they all run out of money to go through the machine and are hopelessly mixed... unable to distinguish the "in" and "out" groups any longer. In that moment, they discover that it was not the stars that were important... but that they were all Sneetches.

My hope for the church is that somehow our dividing lines would become hopelessly mixed up; that, like the Sneetches:

"until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
whether this one was that one... 
or that one was this one
or which one was what one... 
or what one was who."



curmudgeon said...

I think if you expand the metaphor to the broader humanity it would then be brilliant. Unfortunately our politics and religion make us less willing to look at each other "as fellow passengers to the grave".

Andrew said...

Yeah, I did mean for it to be that broad, but on a re-read, you are right, it does sound confined to Christianity. I hope for all walls separating we humans to dissolve.

I suppose the next question is how we are to have various people who share commonalities... but not allow our groupings around commonalities to become exclusivist in nature.

Krista said...

hear, hear. If it applies to all, that's great. If it applies only to Christianity, it's still great.

I wish we could all come together and leave the denominational lines behind us. If we could stop spending so much time deciding if this one or that one truly follows Christ, maybe we would have more energy to reach out and love the ones who stay away after watching us spend so much time arguing.

Bob said...

Well stated. I don't recall Jesus (or the apostle Paul either, for that matter) saying anything implying that Christ followers need to be about getting people "in."

alan said...

I like the post.

I am thinking of the end scene from "My BIg Fat Greek Wedding"

There has been all this furor over the daughter marrying a non-Greek Orthodox... all this distinction between "apples" and "oranges" if you will. The groom-to-be even converts to Orthodoxy... but in the end the father says:

"In the end... we all just... FRUIT!!

jpcarson said...

how is this post relevant to the common and daunting issues facing mankind? if BTX does not make them a central focus, in my opinion, it is a waste of time, if not worse

Liz said...

Thanks for participating in the Big Tent Synchroblog.

I hope you are able to participate in the upcoming synchroblog "Christians and The Immigration Issue"

Here's the info:

CHRISTIANS AND THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE - 9/8/2010 (second Wednesday of the month) As Congress debates how to handle undocumented aliens already within U.S. borders and how to more effectively handle hopeful immigrants in the future, Christians will need to consider what it means to love these new neighbors in our midst.

Please email your name, name of blog, title of post and link to: Sonja Andrews at by close of business CST on 9/7/2010 if you would like to be included in this synchroblog.

Here's a link to help keep up with monthly synchroblog themes and dates:

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