Ghostbusters: or How Christians Should Behave With “Portable Nuclear Reactors” On Their Backs
You remember Ghostbusters right? Three guys with portable nuclear reactor laser like weapons on their backs that they would use to blast the demons, ghosts, and goblins invading New York City. The one rule they lived by was to “never cross the streams” of their weapons lest something very bad happen. They weren’t exactly sure what would happen but they assumed it would be bad.
Why Christians Don’t Cross The Streams
The Bible is not unlike the weapon used by the Ghostbusters. A portable nuclear reactor that, depending on how it is wielded, has brought freedom or bondage to people for centuries. And over those centuries Christians have formed different streams based on how they thought their portable nuclear reactor should be used.
The result has been an extreme fear and reluctance to cross those streams of theology and assumed orthodoxy lest something bad happen. No one is exactly sure what that bad might look like…they just assume it will be bad.
So as a general rule Mainline Protestants don’t mix with Catholics who don’t mix with the Baptists, who don’t mix with the Orthodox, who don’t mix with the Charismatics…
…who are barely tolerated by the evangelicals.
Throw into the mix the liberal Christians, emerging Christians, the “reformed” Christians, Mark Driscoll (I figure he’d be happy to have his own stream), and a thousand other church denomination and networks who all think their revelation of the portable nuclear reactor, and how to wield it, is just a little clearer than everyone else.
But somewhere in our fear of “crossing the streams” Jesus’ gentle reminder to his followers:
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
is somehow lost in our desire to maintain (perceived) theological purity. Looking at many of the streams in Christianity you’d think Jesus had said that the way all would know we are followers of him is by:
* how earnestly we defend the truth of scripture
* how zealous we are in religious observance
* how quick we are to denounce other believers for theological differences
Ironically this was the Apostle Paul’s resume before he had an encounter with the risen Christ.
Living in an Echo Chamber
Think of a supermarket. What would your diet and health look like if you only consumed groceries from one or two aisles of the store? What if you ate dairy, but no pasta. Vegetables but no bread. (Some never even have dessert)
You may live…but your health and quality of life will suffer.
The church is no different. By and large we keep to a certain “aisle” of Christianity and rarely stray into another. So
* people listening to John Piper are not listening to N.T. Wright.
* people listening to Richard Rohr are not listening to Greg Laurie
* people listening to Mark Driscoll are not listening to Bill Johnson.
* people reading Joseph Prince are not reading Fredrick Buechner
* people reading Greg Boyd will probably never do a Beth Moore Bible study.
Sometimes its just genuine ignorance of the existence of a different “aisle of the supermarket” but in many cases its the active direction of pastors and church leaders keeping their followers listening to speakers whose teachings and theology, not coincidentally, echo their own.
I facilitate a monthly gathering here in Hong Kong called Bread and Wine. Its a casual group of Christians who gather to discuss how our Christian faith plays out in the 21st century. We often highlight speakers whose teachings are pushing the envelope of evangelical Christianity. Speakers such as N.T. Wright, Rob Bell, Peter Rollins, Brian McClaren and so on.
Often I’ll get a comment or two from a visitor about how they had never heard a particular idea discussed before or that a different viewpoint on a subject within Christianity was even possible. For the first time they were made aware there are other aisles of the supermarket with some really good food!
To mix it up, and so that the group doesn’t form a new “echo chamber”, last week we highlighted some critiques of those aforementioned speakers by some highly regarded and visible Christian leaders such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and John MacArthur. It led to interesting discussion of “how now shall we then live in Christ”
What we really had done though was cross the streams!
Time to Cross the Streams
Ironically in Ghostbusters, it was the very thing they feared (crossing the streams) that ultimately became the way they defeated the film’s ultimate baddie. Three bumbling foolish narcissistic men, when they finally acted together in unity were they able to achieve victory and save the city.
Earlier in the movie when the Ghostbusters first use their weapons they destroy a hotel in pursuit of a single ghost. In an a midst the carnage that has been leveled by the boys, Bill Murrey proudly holds up their captured ghost in victory, totally oblivious to the damage and destruction he caused.
Perhaps when walking around town with a portable nuclear reactor on your back it helps to have a little love and humility in your heart.
I think the church could take a lesson here…
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