A magazine that I've never heard of wrote an article about some of my friends. That article sparked all kinds of discussion on Twitter and blogs all over the Internet, or at least the part of the Internet that cares a lot about what particular Christian denomination someone belongs to. It's a small world, admittedly.
This article tells me that Michael Gungor has drifted from Biblical Orthodoxy. That was surprising to me. I know Michael and Lisa Gungor. They are good friends, and remarkably kind and thoughtful people. I've spent many late nights with Michael talking about spiritual things, including the nature of God, his Son Jesus, and how scripture works in our lives.
Those conversations have all given me hope. More than that, my time with Michael has led me to consider the Bible and the Church more seriously than I once did. I'd pretty much written off the Bible as an interesting storybook, and the Church as an organization of oppression. It was Michael Gungor who challenged me to consider the Eucharist as an unbroken line reaching all the way back to the upper room, and the Church as a mission of hope in our world.
Michael is on a journey with God. Sometimes, it takes him through dark places. I know that because I am also on a journey with God, and it sometimes takes me through dark places. Michael and I share a conviction that being honest and vulnerable before God and with other people is important. When I am confused, I tell people that I'm confused. When I'm hurt, I tell people that I am hurt. And when God moves in my life like a rushing wind, I tell people about the joy that comes with it.
Michael and I are part of a project called The Liturgists. Our desire was to make the kinds of sacred art that we needed in our own lives. That art had to be unapologetically Christian, for both Michael and I have made an intentional choice to follow Jesus Christ. But, it also needed to be open to people who doubt, or people who have serious questions about suffering. It needed to incorporate the incredible beauty and wonder that modern science reveals about our Universe. We wanted art that could speak of a God who's brush strokes measure 24 trillion miles long, a God who understands suffering because he came to Earth and hung on a cross.
Our work lead us to reach out to people who have taught us and inspired us. Rob Bell was one of those people. He's the man who challenged me to reconsider God when I was an atheist. He's also the man who has challenged me to consider the beauty, power, and relevance of the Bible. Rob is one of the kindest, bravest people I've ever known. I'm most amazed by the grace he shows when he's criticized, and his absolute refusal to say unkind things about those who say unkind things about him.
Rachel Held Evans was another. I've been drawn to her work for years. She writes with passion, conviction, and heart. Rachel is deeply troubled by our tendency to minimize women in the Christian tradition. Her heart breaks for the hurting, and the oppressed. That broken heart has moved her to throw over a table or two. In her actions I hear the words, "My house will be called a house of prayer." Rachel's courageous stance amidst a culture that can be dismissive of women challenges me to speak and act for the oppressed when my instinct is to stay quiet.
I mention Rob and Rachel, because this article used them as marks against Michael and Lisa. It was as if the author was in a courtroom, making a case against Michael, and Rob and Rachel were exhibit A and B. The implication there and other places online was that association with such folks is enough to make a conviction of "unorthodox" against anyone foolish enough to associate with them.
But who is making these claims of unorthodoxy? Mostly Evangelical Christians, more specifically members of the Reformed movement. I don't have any issue with Reformed theology, but I do have a problem when the Evangelical Reformed start to toss out accusations of unorthodoxy.
The Reformed are unorthodox. There are Orthodox Church movements. Over a billion Christians worldwide call the Reformed unorthodox. The Reformed movement can't call itself the Orthodox movement--that name was already taken.
This raises an interesting question: who decides what is and is not orthodox? Every Christian sect has a different answer, and every Christian is some other Christian's unorthodox. Most of them are absolutely certain that they have found the right interpretation of scripture, while everyone else has it wrong.
I can't remember what it's like to be that certain. I don't know if I have it right or not. I am only sure that I am wrong about some things: I just don't know which things.
Lucky for me, there are these stories in the Bibles about a disorganized bunch of people who followed Jesus around. They often misunderstood what he was saying, and they fought each other a lot. Jesus had to correct them all the time. The only thing that united these people was a decision to follow Jesus. They'd all left their old life behind to follow him from place to place.
I'm honestly not sure whose definition of orthodox is right anymore. But, I do know that I have made a decision to follow Jesus. And I know that Michael Gungor, Lisa Gungor, Rob Bell, and Rachel Held Evans are there with me, covered in the dust kicked up by His shoes.
I have never met anyone more committed to living out His call to "feed my sheep" as these friends of mine. If that's unorthodox, then I am proud to be unorthodox.