Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Love God - Love Your Loved Ones Less

Yesterday, my brother shared an article on Facebook concerning Evangelical pastor Francis Chan's challenge for Christians to stop idolizing their family and put Christ's mission first. He asked for his readers' thoughts. After perusing the article, I wrote:
"A: Chan believes anyone who does not "have a relationship" with his god will be tortured for eternity by said god - so out the gate, I am convinced that his view of god is going to be harmful to humanity. Ergo any thought he has to add about how a believer should go about spiritual pursuits, in my view, is going to be highly suspect.
B. Chan is encouraging you to put the most important relationships of your life on the back burner so you can go out and... well, at this point it gets vague... be radical, and all out, and live over the edge! This too will probably end badly. Not for Chan, Chan will get awesome book deals and speaking engagements out of this. He will get lots of perks.
The followers of Chan? Not so much. They will probably mess up relationships, wax and wane between guilt and euphoria until something gives, and make a lot of financial and life decisions with no more consideration than a role of the dice.
My challenge to Christians... stop idolizing... period."
Then this morning, I read an article by Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism, where she shared about growing up with that evangelical mindset of near paranoia about making sure everything and everyone in your life was undervalued when compared to God.
"I also remember worrying that I loved my family more than I loved God. I was taught that this was wrong—that it made my family idols. I felt so conflicted over this, and purposed time and again to love God more than I loved my parents or siblings."
Reading both of those articles made me reflect on how real that topic was to me growing up. I regularly saw folks give up various past times and pleasures because they were concerned these things were becoming an "idol" in their life. I many times abandoned enjoyments, passed on opportunities, or sabotaged relationships because I thought these things would "hinder my walk with God". Jesus needed to be ultimate (whatever that meant) and nothing could even be a close second.

One of the musical heroes in my circles growing up was named Keith Green. I lived and worked at Green's ministry for 6 months when I was 18.  He wrote a song where he pointed out that everything in his life took 2nd place to Jesus. Keith speaks of his marriage in this way:
"As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead, than to love her more than the one who saved my soul."
There was a time when I heard that song and that line and felt it was a powerful testimony of dedication to Jesus - now I see it as a dysfunctional mess.

Imagine a husband insisting to his wife that she love him more than the children. Contemplate what kind of mother would tell a daughter that, if the daughter loved her brother more, then the daughter was unworthy of her mother's love.

Does any reasonable person consider this jealous, competitive perspective in any way loving?

3 comments:

Michelle said...

I remember back in my believing days hearing a fellow church member saying, "I LOVE my grandchildren...but I don't IDOLIZE my grandchildren." It really rubbed me the wrong way even then, because it implied that it was possible for her to love her grandchildren "too much" in the eyes of her God. Sure, some people can be a little obnoxious when they gush about their grandchildren, and maybe some who are extremely wealthy can spoil them a little too much, but that's not the vibe I was getting from her statement. She was proud that she loved god more than people...even the little ones.

BTW, I listened to both parts of your chat with your brother, and enjoyed them very much! I like your brother a lot. I wish more Christians were like him.

Jon Eastgate said...

Yeah, he forgot about incarnation, seeing God's face in those around us etc. It's a shame that so much of Christianity comes to this.

Andrew said...

Michelle - I am looking forward to seeing my brother this summer. It has been about 4 years since I have seen him. Yes, if more Christians were like Steve, this planet would be much better off. Glad you enjoyed the podcast!

Jon - I am curious if that theology has its roots in Western consumerism. It just seems to be putting relationships in a competitive stream that shouldn't belong.

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