Saturday, August 13, 2011

Listen up boys, Jesus speaking

The greeting on this sign outside a little church in Wilmington, North Carolina, was getting quite a bit of attention in the blog-o-sphere yesterday. Saw it at least three times; wasn’t even trying. Those good old boys down there at Sea Gate sure got a big bang out of however many bucks it was they invested in signage with messaging potential.

Back in the day, that message probably would have been just “Welcome,” or at most, “Ye Must Be Born Again.”

Not that this new-fangled message caused me any distress --- it’s what you’ve come to expect these days, justifiably or not, from that whole wing of Christianity that describes itself as “Bible-believing.”

What it did do was bring about a epiphanous moment:

Hell, Joe, them Bible-believers have gone out of the soul-saving business and full-time into politics and social activism. Probably can’t even find a Baptist church to be born again in any more.

The transcendently delicious part of this whole business is that it’s exactly what the Bible-believers used to lambaste the liberal wing of Christianity, where I hang out, about.

Listen up boys and girls in the Bible belt, Jesus speaking: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36). That admonition still applies.


The only revival meeting I really remember was somewhere in a big tent down near Corydon when I was little kid. My folks had been invited I think by their cherished friends, Alice and Cecil Hawkins --- and since I was really little, their son, Charles --- who went on to become a Baptist preacher --- may have been along.

I wish I knew who put it on, or remembered more. But the tent made the biggest impression as did the men of the evangelistic team, all dressed in white, and their fleet of vehicles --- a little like a traveling circus.

But I do remember later Billy Graham and his crusades, back the day when Bible-believers were out there fishing for souls full-time.

And the power, whether it stuck or not, of thousands coming forward from among those packed into a stadium as “Just As I Am” rose to the sky. I don't think there were any signs posted at the gates listing who couldn't come in.

Think back to Gov. Rick Perry’s prayer meeting last weekend down there in Texas --- If y’all ain’t already a born-again believer, don’t bother.

What a shift. And when was the last time you got a personal invite to a revival meeting? Do they even have time for such things anymore what with all the politicking.


It’s all about grace, and always has been --- although there certainly have been and still are denominational differences about the fine points. And there will be inevitable disputes about just how encompassing the net grace casts actually is. The devil is in those details.

But grace is first, unencumbered, and that’s what that grand old Anglican (not Baptist) hymn, written 1835-36 in England by Charlotte Elliott, is all about, too.

The operative words are “Just as I am” and “I come.” Everyone with a stake in Christianity, old-time or otherwise, needs to remember that.


Anonymous said...

I thought you might enjoy a few signs carried by Tea Partiers. I have a feeling that if I post a link, this reply will go to your spam box, so google "Teabonics", and see if you can find the page. Otherwise, I can try linking it for you.

I enjoy your blog.

Anonymous said...

This is the link I was talking about: