Red Sox Nation

The Sox are in the ALCS right now. I don’t like to give current events in my posts as that allows people to figure out that I only write once in a great while, but damn it, I’m doing it this time, because I’m proud of the bearded men! One of the cool things about the Red Sox is that they have a pretty respectable nationwide fan base. Did you know they call The Baltimore Orioles’ field Fenway South? That’s because when the Sox play the O’s about half the crowd are loyal to the Boston boys. When Papi hits a homerun in Tampa and you hear the crowd cheering you get the same impression. I say all this to lead up to a point, it may be somewhat belabored and forced just so I can give props to our “Worst to First” team, but I think it is a worthwhile point: Red Sox Nation is not defined by anything but their love of the Boston Red Sox. They can be from anywhere, they can be men, women, children, elderly, drunks, monks, drunk monks. Nothing restricts you from the club except a lack of interest in the Red Sox. You don’t get in because your parents are Sox fans, you don’t get booted because your kids like the Yankees (although your parenting skills may be questioned). To be part of Red Sox Nation you need only love the Red Sox.

Now lets talk about churches. Churches have rules, they have covenants, they have stuff you have to sign. I know at the churches I’ve been at you had to take classes and get voted in. You may say that all these things are necessary because being part of a church is of much greater importance than being a fan of a sport. Sure, I’ll give you that it is probably a bit more meaningful than rooting for your favorite team, but that isn’t really the point I’m addressing here. What I wonder about is how a group is defined. What makes a particular group a particular group and not another group. What makes a person a member of that group? Because those things, those defining regulations and rules and such, those are what the group holds to be central to who they are. This leads me, through a very badly constructed argument, to the big question: what is it that should define a church? What is it that you think should define the church you are a part of? What’s in these covenants and contracts and classes? If we say that just following Jesus is enough, then why is all that necessary? Is it because we think we know the right way to follow Jesus? How often you tithe and how often you take communion and what you think about sovereignty and soteriology and all that. Are you so convinced that you, or a group of you and your buddies knows the right way to follow Jesus? I wouldn’t be so bold. I am pretty arrogant, but that’s a little much, even for me.

The other element of this is what exactly makes one a member of a particular church? To be a member of Red Sox Nation you need simply love the Red Sox. When you go to a game at Camden Yards you are essentially a member of Red Sox Nation gathered at Camden Yards. When you go home to Boston later in the week and go to a game at Fenway you are gathered with Red Sox Nation there as well. Are you more officially a member of either gathering? Are you disloyal to either for going to the other? Of course not. The more places you go, the more games you gather at the more you show your love of the team, the defining trait of being a member. I mean, hell, when you go down to the local sports bar to put down a pitcher of Sam Adams Boston Lager and watch the Sox destroy the Rays, you are a member of the gathering of Red Sox Nation there too!

Churches don’t work exactly like this. You aren’t really allowed to just be part of the group that you are around. You may be allowed to be a guest if you visit family out of town and stop by their church, but if you don’t gather with one group consistantly week to week at the designated meeting place, you are considered a church hopper and somehow, unlike going to all the Red Sox games wherever you can making you a bigger fan, this somehow makes you a less mature, less serious Christian.

Obviously this isn’t a perfect comparison, but the point is no less legitimate for the illustration. Your church is defined by what they say makes them a seperate group. If it is the building they meet in, or the rules they follow, that is what that group is, and often what that group is, is not as simple as a bunch of people who follow Jesus.

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    4 comments

    1. Mark Van Norden

      Dan,

      I actually agree that the issue of homosexuality is not nearly as simple as modern Christianity would like to believe. It’s easy to take all the references in the NT and make blanket statements, but there are strong arguments as to why those passages aren’t as cut-and-dried as we’ve thought. The line of thinking I am following is outlined at the following link (http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php), but the gist of it is that the NT isn’t condemning homosexuality as a whole any more than Jesus condemned tax collectors as a whole. Rather, it is the individual sinful actions of specific individuals that were condemned. As Justin points out in his article, there has been, and continues to be, plenty of condemnable actions by heterosexuals, so therefore it can be argued that the issue in those passages isn’t heterosexuality vs. homosexuality at all. Click the link above, as Justin does a better job explaining his views than I did.

      Personally, I believe that homosexuality is a sin (along with many other things that find much greater acceptance in Christian circles), but my reasoning does not come from the passages often cited. Rather my opinion comes from the following: God is big on imagery and the like. He went to great lengths in the OT to create types and shadows that speak to our NT existence. One example is His decision to express His nature in His people, and in general I believe He has created male and female to each uniquely express different aspects of His personality. The NT makes clear reference to the relationship of husband and wife being symbolic of Christ’s relationship with the church. If we muddy the water with same-sex relationship then that symbolism is broken, and personally I believe God never intended that to happen. Now, there may be other good arguments against homosexuality, and I am sure that there are many that would counter my own argument, but nonetheless that is my own opinion.

      Having said that, I want to continue the discussion in another vein, to explain why this issue is so hard for me. If we assume, for the sake of discussion, that homosexuality is a sin, then we have to lump it with all other sins, like gluttony, slothfulness, disobedience to parents and other things. The truth is that my propensity to eat sugar is no less a sin than homosexuality. So then, how can I condemn my brother or sister that walks in that lifestyle (yes I believe that gay people can be Christians)? The truth is, there is no easy answer to this, at least not one that I see in my current level of understanding (which admittedly is not that great). I think it is one of many issues that the organized church glosses over with its hell and damnation approach (with another one being how the body would approach marijuana use if it was legalized). May we all continue to strive together in a common pursuit of a wisdom that has not commonly been sought in years past.

    2. Mark Van Norden

      funny how the comments above my own made no sense in the context of the post I THOUGHT I was commenting on, but I didn’t have the sense to investigate the discrepancy. Sorry for the confusion!

      Mark

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