This was the starting question at last nights pub theology. It is an interesting question and kept us going for quite some time. I think it is a fair reflection of the conversation to say some were concerned by the question, some welcomed it and some were just intrigued.
We spoke about the need that some Christians feel they have to ‘protect’ the gospel and, for that matter, God. I think we came to a kind of agreement that the neither need protecting.
We spoke a bit about what is it in the ‘gospel’ (a term which we simply used as a name for the Christian message) that people find offensive that brings this question. What is it in the gospel that turns people off, that annoys people and causes us to ask whether it needs to be changed? Simply put the answer seemed to be something like:
‘the message that only some are included and if you disagree, or have a certain lifestyle, then you are excluded and not welcome …. unless you change your view, your lifestyle or your sexuality.’
This then took a tangent, an important tangent, to churches being quite quick to condemn, to complain or campaign against things that the everyday world sees as normal and right. The group, which was a collection of people with faith and no faith, all agreed that the church has this image. It’s unusual for the people of pub theology to agree – it’s quite sad that this is something we can agree on! But … moving on …
We chatted about this a lot and were able to see that, actually, the gospel message is one of love, of acceptance and of inclusion. This is seen in those key times when Jesus meets the marginalised of his time. He eats with the tax collector, touches the leper, spends time in the midday sun with the ostricised and shows compassion to those condemned. That’s a pretty inclusive way to act.
So I think – and I may be wrong but people who were there can correct me through the comments – we kind of came around to the conclusion that we do not need a new gospel, but we need to realign ourselves with the love message of the gospel. A gospel that champions love rather than hate, lives freedom rather than legality and breathes compassion rather than judgement. That would be quite counter-cultural and attractive in the way the character of Jesus is attractive.
We then moved onto other things in the discussion and the night was a really good night. Interestingly a reporter form one of the local papers joined us as he was interested in the concept and what we are about. I think he enjoyed the discussion as well.
I felt this session was a really good time together. Everyone seemed to contribute as much as they wanted to but, I think more importantly – everyone was having a good time, drinking eating and chatting about questions that we all have. I’m already looking forward to the next one in a month’s time!