Copyright 2016 by Gabriel Connor Salter (feel free to share, but don’t plagiarize. I’m a writer, you have no idea what I can do to your reputation).
So I’ve done something a bit different this week.
Instead of an essay-type post like I normally do, I’ve posted the transcript of a short speech I recently gave. I wrote this speech using materials from two blog articles I had previously written, used it for two classes that required me to give a talk, and then reformatted it into an opinion piece for Taylor University’s student newspaper The Echo. Maybe in a few years I’ll take it to the next step and write a short book on this topic.
Anyway, each version of this piece is a bit different, so it seemed like a good idea to get this version out there as well. Enjoy!
- First given as persuasive speech to Public Speaking students at Taylor University, March 29, 2016. Later given as inspirational talk to Inspirational Writing students at Taylor University, April 2, 2016
I’m going to start out by doing what may be the most controversial thing someone can do at a Christian college: I’m going to reference a Pink Floyd song.
My title for this speech is Comfortably Unacceptable; not Comfortably Numb, but Comfortably Unacceptable. I’m going to make the case that sometimes God calls us to do something, and even other Christians don’t get it; but that’s okay. I’m going to explain this by sharing some of my story, then I’m going to prove it using Scripture and modern-day examples, and then advise you with two helpful suggestions.
I mentioned in my last speech that I’m a writer. My big passion is writing things like science fiction and fantasy. What I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older is that while my faith does influence my work it’s not very explicit. If you can imagine a spectrum of Christian fiction writers, where one end you’ve got John Bunyan who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress – which is very good writing with very obvious Christian references – and C.S. Lewis somewhere in the middle, I’m probably more like J.R.R. Tolkien who wrote Lord of the Rings – definitely a Christian worldview present in the work, but it’s very subtle.
Another thing I’ve discovered though is that because my writing is only subtly Christian, it’s not really accepted by most American Evangelicals. When I say “evangelical” I mean Protestant Christians in general. By and large, American evangelicals have said you can’t be a good Christian writer, or musician, or moviemaker, unless your work is brutally and obviously Christian.Pastor Skye Jethani explains this attitude pretty well in his book Futureville:
“It isn’t enough to compose a beautiful song – it must be a Christian song. It isn’t acceptable to create an inspiring film – it must have an evangelistic message. It isn’t sufficient to write a brilliant novel – it must champion biblical values. For many Christians, beauty is only to be valued when it can be utilized for some practical purpose.”
Now, I have no problem with good worship music and well-written Christian books. But what about people who feel called to do more subtle, mainstream work? Well, researcher David Kinnamam mentions some of them in his book You Lost Me. He met with all kinds of Christian artists who wanted to use their gifts in mainstream culture to make it better, and in most cases the Christians around them criticized and condemned them for it.
When I fully realized my kind of writing isn’t acceptable in Christian culture, I got angry. I was upset that God gave me a gift to write stories one way, but most American Christians won’t accept that. I kept feeling this way for a while until one day I realized something: God doesn’t always call us to do things other Christians agree with.
Now I know that sounds weird. Some of you may be thinking, doesn’t the Bible say we need to be united? Well, let’s consider some Bible verses on this. Psalm 119:9 says a young man keeps his way pure by living according to God’s word. So we need to always follow Scripture. Proverbs 15:22 says wisdom is found in many counselors, so we should have other Christians around to guide us. Ephesians 4:3 says that we must strive for unity. So, we should get along with other believers as best we can.
But the Bible doesn’t say God will call us to do things everyone will agree with. In fact, some Scripture and modern-day stories say the opposite. In Jeremiah chapter 38, an invading army threatens Israel. The prophet Jeremiah gives the Israelites a message from God, he says they are going to die if they fight back, God wants them to surrender. The Israelites threw Jeremiah in a muddy pit for being unpatriotic. In Acts chapter 10-11 God tells Peter to put aside his belief non-Jews are ungodly and go preach at a Roman soldier’s home. He does what God tells him, and the church in Jerusalem basically responds by convening a heresy meeting. In 1956, a man named Loren Cunningham feels God telling him to send young people out as missionaries to every continent. He becomes a minister, starts an organization called with Youth With A Mission, everything goes great. Until one day the head of his denomination politely tells him, “You either dial this down and make it exclusive to our denomination, or you must resign.” And so on. God’s ways, it turns out, are not always our ways.
Now that I’ve established God sometimes asks us to be unacceptable, I want to say two things that will help you in that situation. First, see it is an opportunity. I know many Christians won’t understand why I do what I do, I might even get criticized a lot. So, I need to rely on God for strength and seek his approval first. This situation gives me an opportunity to grow.
Second, choose to love those who hurt you. I mentioned Loren Cunningham earlier. In his book Is That Really You God? he talks about how hard it was to resign as a minister; his father was deacon in that particular denomination, he’d had a calling to preach since he was thirteen years old. About twenty years after resigning, he met again with Thomas Zimmerman, the man who had made him resign. He describes it this way:
“I told him now how much I loved and appreciated him, thanking him for the role he had played at a crucial time in my life. Perhaps without even realizing it he had helped me solidify the vision that God had given me, that he wanted the waves of young people to go out from every denomination, not just my own.”
I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to reach the point where I am that forgiving. But I believe that if God calls you to do something that is difficult and unpopular, as hard as it is, he will give you strength to do it. 17th-century pastor named Thomas Brooks had a great quote about dealing with adversity. He said, “The moon will run her course though the dogs bark at it; so does the traveler, and so will the faithful messengers of the Lord hold on in their way and work, let men and devils bark and do their worst.”
Brooks, Thomas and Grosart, Alexander. The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. 5. Edinburgh: Nichol, 1866. Digital Puritan Press. Web. 13 March 2016.
Cunningham, Loren and Rogers, Janice. Is That Really You God?: Hearing the Voice of God. Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984. Print.
Kinnaman, David and Hawkins, Aly. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… and Rethinking Faith. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2011. Ebook.
Jethani, Skye. Futureville: Discover You Purpose For Today By Reimagining Tomorrow. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc., 2013. Ebook.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005. Print.
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