On Halloween this year, a friend sent me a link to a sermon and asked my opinion. My first response, was, literally, "This is a REALLY LONG SERMON!" I don't know what would happen to me if I ever preached an hour long sermon, and I am in no hurry to find out.
So, John Lindell is my neighbor, my colleague, and my brother in Christ. I have never met him, but have heard a whole lot about him, and listened to several of his sermons before. I would encourage you to view his entire sermon yourself, as I have.
At first, I responded to my friend directly, offering my opinion in a private message, and was going to leave it there. But this week the sermon went public, especially the section in which he says "yoga is diametrically opposed to Christianity" and "idol worship," which is very clear and very hard to interpret in any other than a condemning light. Several of my friends are talking about it on social media and in a few individual conversations with me, wondering what I think.
So, here's what I think.
Now there are a lot of specific things in the sermon that I could address, but let me just say this...
The version of Christianity represented in the sermon does not work for me. This theology is very particular and rigidly defined, very certain. For example, the preacher here is very clear about thinking open-mindedness is bad, and instead we should guard our minds with some kind of "mind gate" that God has provided us (though I did not find reference to such in the Bible).
Now, I understand how well this rigid version of Christianity works for many people. Right and wrong are very clearly delineated; there are no questions, no doubts. And there is a kind of comfort there, knowing what the precise rules are and knowing what will happen if you don't follow them. And of course, this theology of certainty works for many, many people; for evidence, all you have to do is count worship attendance numbers.
But it doesn't work for me.
And the reason it doesn't work for me is that my relationship with God is by faith, not certainty. I believe that it is by grace that we are saved through faith, not because we are clear about "right" and "wrong" and always follow the rules. My faith in God is hope for things unseen. It is the not knowing for sure but doing it anyway. I simply cannot relate to God with such certainty, fitting neatly into clearly defined, unyielding theological boundaries.
And here's my biggest lament in all of this. When this version of Christianity is presented as "the only way," and people reject it because it doesn't work for them, they end up rejecting Christ altogether. And that breaks my heart.
I cannot tell you how many people I've spoken with who have described the church they rejected, and who have heard me reply by saying, "Well, actually I reject that version of the church as well. It doesn't work for me, either!" But having never been told there are other ways to do it, or rather having been told that all the other ways to do it are wrong or heretical or demonic, they just walk away altogether.
So although I could very well address this sermon's indiscriminate proof-texting, the switching translations of the Bible from one quotation to the next without mentioning it in order to make his point, the playing on people's fears, the lumping of respected world religions into the same category as ouija boards, the complete omission of all the stuff Christianity has actually stolen from other religions over time, the disconnect between his in-depth knowledge of the topic and his admonition to avoid it, and more, I will not.
Instead I will just say, this version of Christianity is not for me. And if it's not for you, either, then come on over to Campbell UMC and experience an alternative. And if Campbell doesn't work for you, then by all means let me know that so we can sit down and talk about what exactly you are lookng for, so that I can help you find it.
Personally, I am much more upset about Rev. Lindell's remarks about scary movies and TV shows than I am about yoga! I sure hope none of his congregation enjoy "The Haunting of Hill House" as much as I do. That is some good television; I highly recommend it!
Life over Death
6 days ago