Calling Long Distance

Hey, it’s Evan…

Oh, hey! Listen, I can’t answer the phone right now, but if you leave your name, number, and a message, I’ll call you right back. Thanks!

My first voicemail greeting

Evan! It’s… me? You? There’s time travel involved. Or something. But it’s 2022 right now and… I need you to know something. Something I wish I had learned 20 years ago, so I’m telling you.

You are being lied to.

(I mean, the alarmists and Bush’s haters do have a point, but I’m not talking about Iraq.)

No, this is much more insidious than that. This lie goes back generations, over a thousand years. It is a lie almost as old as Christianity itself.

Because if you can’t stop a revolution, you co-opt it. You twist it so that even though things are changing, even though there’s massive upheaval, you still have what you want.

Why did the Rich Young Ruler go away sad? Because he didn’t want to give up what he had: his comfort, his possessions, his status.

And why were Jesus’ followers so disappointed in him? Because he wasn’t going to put the Jews back over the Romans. He was all about having the Jews and the oppressed force their oppressors to see them as human. That’s where the shirt and coat thing, that’s where the “turn the other cheek” thing comes from: it’s not being passive, it’s forcing the person to see what they are doing to you, what their group is doing to you.

And for a little while, we got it. Look at the first few chapters of Acts, how they took care of each other, sharing what they had and giving what others needed.

And how there was no room for hoarding possessions there, because hoarding what you didn’t need was antithetical to the Gospel. And there was no room for amassing power because we’re all equal in the eyes of God.

And this was a movement, a revolution. It was an idea. It wasn’t something you could stop by killing someone. Or even lots of people.

Now, I want to make my metaphor clear here: being rich, as in the Rich Young Ruler, is about hoarding. It’s about having more money than you need to live or even be comfortable. It can also be about power, about influence, about authority. It’s about having so much of those that others have to go without because of you.

The disparity between the rich and poor is really bad in my time, but I think it’s still pretty bad in yours. Look at how many people don’t have food, shelter, basic needs, and then look at how many rental properties sit vacant. I know you’re not a fan of welfare, but look at how someone can still be working and need welfare. And then look at how much the owners of that company make.

But it’s not just that! Look at those in authority: how much of what they do is taking care of people, and how much is to bolster their own authority? How many with influence and prestige hesitate to use it for fear of losing it?

And that brings us back to the lie. It didn’t start with Emperor Constantine, but he sure codified it. And it’s infested and grown and latched onto and leeched off of the Church, and it’s been cut back at times but it’s clever and it’s insidious and it finds new ways to bury itself in us, and you are not immune. You are not immune to it!

It has fully infested your culture. I don’t mean the culture you are ”fighting” against; I mean the culture of church-going, praise-and-worship-music-business, family-friendly media, end-times-are-coming ”Christianity.” It is a culture, same as everything else.

And that culture will tell you that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle if it contorts itself juuuuuuust right. And that is a damnable lie.

You cannot follow Jesus while seeking power, seeking influence, seeking wealth, seeking authority. You cannot. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

You would wear The Ring to try to do good, and it will only corrupt you.

Jesus didn’t tell us to watch out for creating dependency. He told us to help the poor. He didn’t tell us to keep from rewarding sinful behavior. He told us to help our neighbors, no matter who they are. He didn’t tell us to fight a culture war. He told us to love our enemies. And you know this. You know all of this.

And I am begging you now, put that into practice. And do it fearlessly. Don’t worry about being the ”right” kind of Christian; just be Christ-like. Don’t conflate morality and outward appearance with where someone’s heart is. I’m going to say this again, because you need to hear this the most: there are more Christians around you than you realize because you currently have a very narrow view of what a ”Christian” is.

Every person is a person, even if they’re straight or gay, conservative or liberal, attend the “right” church or ”wrong” church or no church at all, whether they’re squeaky clean or curse like a sailor. Everyone is someone, and they all have something to teach you. I’m begging you not to be closed to that.

Listen, I know how important it is for you to get the right answers, I know how much you want to do the right thing. That’s not a bad thing. But it is causing you to see enemies where there are none. And it’s keeping you from listening to and being changed by and truly loving your friends. Your neighbors.

Now, I’m not saying you’re being deliberately lied to. But when that ancient lie has infested so much of what you’ve learned, then everything you know is wrong.

You don’t believe me. Why would you? I mean, Jesus himself said a call like this is useless. So no, I don’t think this is going to change anything, at least for us. Maybe it’ll plant a seed somewhere, though. Maybe there’s someone in my time that needs to hear this just as much as you.

So I’ll leave you with this: watch out for grouping and judging a mass of people. Gay people, liberals, pro-choice women, feminists, poor people, immigrants, migrants, Catholics; remember that everything you say and believe about them affects actual, individual people. People that you know or will know.

And it is neither weakness nor unfaithfulness to have your convictions changed because you love your neighbor.

Because with grace, with forgiveness, with love, there is no ”us” and ”them”; there’s only you and your neighbors.

So love God, and love your neighbor. Everything else—everything else—is extra.

…hey, I gotta go. I’m running out of change. Just know there’s a lot of things that if I could, I’d rearrange.

Evan Hildreth @oddevan