It used to be easy to spot the sinners. The world was full of our kind of people. And there were the others.
“Our Kind” had mastered the intricacies of faithful living. They looked like us, smelled like us and judged like us. Made us look better just by being in our circle. Of course the best part about being in the same circle with “our kind” was that we could agree on who the real sinners were without breaking a sweat.
Real sinners (as anyone with an eye for these things will tell you) are relatively easy to pick out of a lineup. Not the lineup for jello seconds at the church potluck mind you, but the lineup at the grocery store that contains all the usual suspects. The neighbourhood stoner. The crooked contractor. The unwed mother with 4 snotty faced kids and 3 ex’s. Easy pickins’ really, when it comes time to pick out the least among us.
The tougher task is trying to identify those individuals who ask annoying and unnecessary questions that make processing our faith less comfortable. Those kind of sinners aren’t as easy to spot in a crowd and are a lot more dangerous. These people would never threaten to mess up your face if you bailed on your pizza delivery bill. But, just when you least expect it, they might say a few words, mess up your take on Jesus or Genesis, smile like they are unaware of their heresy and move on.
These white collar sinners act a lot like Christians. They can be very convincing. They know how to pray, and they listen like they actually care, but you know that under that well landscaped exterior lurks that heart of a theological terrorist. These people hang out with their laptops, thinking and plotting and scratching at bits of extra-Biblical evidence and counter evidence to turn our otherwise orderly Bible studies into doctrinal war zones. And then, just when you’re relaxed (the donuts have been eaten and the notes have been handed out) they toss a grenade onto the coffee table and snicker. “I’ve been wondering this week: was Jesus the perfect communist?” or “is it plausible that Genesis is not entirely altogether actual literal history?”
What makes their little barbs so toxic is that one day, maybe years down the road, perhaps after you’ve suffered a knock on the head, or discovered your allergic to croutons, one of these absurd tiny ideas resurfaces as a legitimate thought. And like most dangerous ideas these ones don’t just vaporize at the next squirrel sighting. These niggly little ponderings are “sticky” to use the bloggers vernacular. They stay at the top no matter what hits your screen. And that’s what makes questions like so dangerous is that eventually you have to take them seriously.