Trapped at the Pastors Luncheon

So I’m sitting at the local pastors luncheon for the first time. I’ve always considered these meetings sort of like the TV show “The View”. Everybody’s griping, and most of them look like Joy Behar.
Suddenly I realize I’ve made a crucial error. I’m trapped here. The waitress has already brought the bread sticks, and the bottomless salad is coming soon. No way to get out now without being rude.
In the words of Sartre, “No exit”.
These days I feel caught between the church people I love and the lost people I’m reaching out toward. I literally fit in nowhere.
I love my lost friends. They’re on the whole pretty well-educated, and my sense of humor goes over well with them. I’m the “cool pastor”, the one who doesn’t send them a judgy face when they light up a smoke or take a drink, though I participate in neither. I get their cultural references and jokes. I don’t scold when they curse.
You get the idea. And yes, I know what you’re thinking.
No, I don’t do all those things just so they’ll like me. I simply don’t really think Jesus would scold them either. And yeah, sometimes I worry about showing too much acceptance to them, worrying they may take my love as tacit approval for an ungodly lifestyle. It’s a tough balance, but I push on. And I have actually won several of them to Christ and baptized them too.
But truth be told, when I see their hateful Facebook posts against Christians, it hurts. When they rail against pro-lifers and conservative people of faith, I’m reminded of that whole “stranger in a strange land” thing. I see their destructive, chaotic lives and am reminded that I truly don’t fit in with them.
That’s reassuring, yet also strangely painful.
So I think, “Well, I’ll just keep my focus on my good Christian brothers and sisters with whom I’ll be spending eternity.” That works out great…until I actually do it.
Back to the local Pastor’s Luncheon. It’s made up of predominantly Bible-believing conservative men from smaller churches in the area. Pastors of the big churches are either too busy or see these guys as small potatoes, so they seldom show up…
…of maybe they’ve shown up in the past and learned their lesson.
We start talking around the table about challenges in ministry. One church starter asks about holding services in a public school, so I speak up. My church met in a public school until just recently.
I explain how I once preached a sermon on what Islam teaches, and it got back to school administrators. I thought it was a very loving, balanced message saying basically it’s only Muslim fundamentalists who interpret the Qu’ran literally who we should worry about as a nation. I encouraged my congregation to show love to their moderate Muslim neighbors.
Well, someone heard about it and complained I was engaging in “hate speech”. So a Christian on the school board called to warn me they were gunning for me. My message to the church starter at the table with me that day was to know that your freedoms may not always be respected in a public school, so watch your back.
The discussion continued, then the entrees came. Then about 30 minutes later, an older man who seemed to be scowling the entire meal spoke up
 with a slow self-righteous southern drawl.
“I’m sorry folks, but I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I don’t speak up.”
All eyes are on him as he then turns to face me and looks me in the eyes.
“Bruther, I want you to know that those Moderate Muslims you said were no danger don’t believe Jesus is the Savior of the world, but only a prophet. They’ll try to lie and say they respect Him, but they don’t believe He’s God. And you’re being foolish if you think they’re your friends.”
I then scramble to explain what I’d said clearly only 30 minutes ago; that my comments were not regarding whether or not Muslims were to be considered “saved” or Christians, but only whether they were dangerous as threats to our safety as Americans. While I talked, he gave me that squinty look you give someone when you think they’re telling you a lie.
I just deleted the pastors lunch from my monthly calendar.
That kind of ignorance and hatred really tick me off. I get so tired of my conservative friends looking for a fight where there is none. They use their faith as a weapon with which to beat the world into submission. I listen to them and wonder how in the world we could possibly share the same Jesus.
Then I hear my lost friends going off the other direction, pretending that people who clearly want to kill us all just need a really good warm hug. Anything short of bringing every refugee into our country, like safe zones, is inhumane and prejudiced. Any suggestion there’s a real problem with religious extremists in the Middle East is dismissed in favor of the desired progressive narrative.
Truly, there’s evidently more than enough stupid to go around, regardless of your politics.
So here I sit alone now, typing in my favorite Starbucks. I’m accepted here as long as I keep quiet, but that’s enough for me right now. I don’t truly fit in anywhere – not with my crazy Christian friends with minds just as closed to other ways of thinking as those ladies on The View.
I’m not comfortable on Ms. Behar’s couch, but just as ill at ease in front of those breadsticks at the local Olive Garden.
So I guess I’m looking forward to heaven, where I can sit with Lewis and Tolkien and chat on to my heart’s content. Hopefully, those two wouldn’t get sick of my questions and interruptions, and the fact I don’t smoke a pipe with them or share a pint.
Oh Lord, would that meeting actually be their equivalent of an Olive Garden pastors lunch? What if, compared to their intellect, I’m the squinty-eyed rube from Olive Garden with a chip on his shoulders and more ignorance than brains in his head?
I guess I’ll just hang out with Jesus. He’s the only one with grace enough to tolerate all of our stupidity together.

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