In my previous post, I compared the responsibilities of the new pope with the call to pastor a church. Granted, the budgets are a little different in size, but the theology undergirding the tasks and the variety of roles are similar. That being said, I’ll gladly admit that being Pope is much, much more difficult for about a billion reasons, not the least of which is the dizzying choice of headgear. Red or white? Pointy or rounded? I can barely pick the right liturgically-colored stole each Sunday.
For all the baggage that Catholicism carries around, one of the benefits is that it has a go-to guy (and it will probably continue to be a guy long after Pope Francis). In the Pope, Catholics have a spiritual leader, a biblical interpreter, a global spokesperson, and a ceremonial figurehead. Catholics know where the buck stops (assuming the buck can make it through the phalanx of cardinals). What the Pope says goes, whether or not Catholics choose to follow suit.
Protestants can’t make such a claim. At a recent Men’s Breakfast, we discussed the question, “Who speaks for Christians today?” Several names were thrown into the hat: radio talk show hosts, TV news analysts, smarmy evangelists. But the consensus among us was this: not only is there not one person who speaks for Christians, but even if such a position existed, no one would want the job.
Gone are the days of Billy Graham being the face of Western Christianity. It was much easier to latch onto one voice when there were only a few to choose from. Nowadays, any hack with an M.Div. and a computer can write a religious blog. There are as many different Christian voices as there are outlets, which are countless. And even if we Christians united together (now there’s an idea!) and chose a spokesperson, which brand of Christianity would he or she (remember, we’re dreaming here) represent? I guarantee no matter which way the wind blew with this person’s theology, social stances, and hairstyle, gaggles of people would find justifiable reasons to hate their guts and call them names on Facebook.
So that means Christians are left without a leader, like sheep that have been scattered. What we need is a strong, authoritative, respected, theologically sound, intellectual, compassionate person to step forward and lead us. We don’t need a pundit or a muckraker or a zealot or a polarizer. We are sheep. We need a shepherd.
I would like to offer a name. I know who should speak for Christians in our country today. I know just the person to bring us together and move us forward. His name is Jesus. What if we let Jesus speak for Jesus, and we stopped trying to do it for him? What if we let Jesus speak where Jesus spoke, and we let Jesus be quiet on things he never spoke about? I know a lot of people think Jesus had things to say about sexuality and gun control and selling Big Gulps in New York City, but when I read the gospels, all I hear are words about love, acceptance, grace, and making sure we take care of the poor. Based on how much his name is invoked these days, you’d think Jesus never shut up, blabbering on about any social topic that came to mind. But there’s a beautiful economy to his words in the gospels, found in unqualified statements like, “Love your enemies” and “Become like a little child” and “Father, forgive them.”
Is there anything someone has to say that’s better than that? If so, speak up! If not, stop trying to tell us what you think Jesus said, and just tell us what Jesus said. We don’t need a spokesperson telling us what Christians should believe; we need a risen savior, who invites us, not to lead for him, but to follow him.