From my perspective, here in the dreary Midwest, it seems like there are strangers all around me. Perhaps part of the problem with Christianity today is that no one knows each other or what they believe. The Evangelicals are in their own camp only talking about themselves, the Catholics exist in an echo chamber where they provide the only input, the Methodists and Lutherans each play in their own yards not even very sure why there’s a fence on the border in the first place.
I was raised in a non-denominational evangelical flavor of Christianity and while my experience certainly isn’t universal it does seem to have a certain commonality with others. Growing up I heard all kinds of ill-informed Church history. I was told that Baptists only ever focused on Hell, that Assembly of God was someplace “you don’t want to go.” I learned that Pentecostals just danced around and babbled during their services while Catholics were waited on the sidelines to condemn you to Hell. Lutherans, on the other hand, were pretty much just Catholic-decaf while Methodists were strict and harsh. Not a word was spoken about Orthodox or Anglicans. Messianic Jews, however, were mentioned. And let us not even get started on Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists or Mormons.
Now that I am grown I’m aware that I grew up in a neo-con, evangelical fundamentalist bubble. As such you must imagine my surprise when I started learning more about Christianity and history and the current Christian practices of the various denominations. After all that I’ve learned I’ve found that we don’t know each other. It wasn’t just my own ignorance, all of us have a long way to go.
Now, I get it, being a Christian shouldn’t require a Church History 101 credit, but to ignore it altogether only creates more distance between us. And that distance, I’m afraid, will only hurt us more. We are strangers of the same tribe, estranged family unconcerned with each other. We are crowded around a small campfire thinking it’s the only one that burns. It hurts me to think that my Christian family is so divided up, so fragmented, so isolated from one another.
This I lament, but this also I must aim to mend.
O Lord, preserve us from ourselves, create in us a heart for healing and mend our broken ways. Amen.