In an unlikely pairing of words, I’ve decided to define the phrase “constipated Christianity” since I know that this will probably come up in discussion among my friends and family. So what is it? It’s really quite simple:
Constipated Christianity: A form of religious impersonation where the devotee is always tense, bloated, and never moves. It’s characterized by constant straining, nothing good ever comes out. As a result, the poor person is just generally full of it.
It’s crude and offensive. It’s sophomoric. Yes, I know. This also happens to be all too true! Makes me wonder if there’s a spiritual laxative. Of course, the opposite of this would be religious diarrhea. And believe me, I DON’T want to define that one since it’s pretty self-evident.
Neither is pretty. Both are ugly pictures of what can easily come about when someone takes their eyes off the glory of Jesus Christ.
When someone is so stuck on tradition (we’ve always done it like that!) and scoffs at new ideas and new ways to reach the unchurched, it’s easy to criticize… especially when an idea is totally unconventional.
Some of the most controversial styles of ministries I’ve seen over the years have been those who have attempted to reach people who are really “out there.” A great example would be Revolution Church, a ministry started by Jay Bakker, son of Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Messner.
Jay Bakker is covered with tattoos, piercings, and a radical idea: embrace everyone. He and his staff oversee churches in Atlanta, New York City, and Charlotte, NC. What’s amazing is that he and the board of directors of Revolution even allows people in his ministry to disagree with him. Now THAT is unconventional.
A primary example is the radical difference between Bakker and Stu Damron, who oversees the Atlanta church. Their disagreement isn’t a small one, either: homosexuality. Bakker (as much of the evangelical community will quickly point out) is in support of full equality for gay and lesbian people, and even goes so far as to say that gay relationships aren’t sinful (for the record, I agree with him).
Damron, on the other hand, disagrees. He believes that being gay is in itself not sinful, but sexual relationships are. The two men love each other dearly, but they disagree a great deal this issue – an issue that would split most churches.
They agree on one critical factor, though. They both believe that God’s love for people is completely unconditional, and that His grace applies no matter what. That’s pretty radical, I think.
Maybe I should bring this to home. I’ve had a long-time friendly debate with a dear friend of mine, John Renken. Renken is founder and senior pastor of Xtreme Ministries here in Clarksville, Tennessee. Naturally, this debate centers around the morality and apparent sinfulness of gay relationships. Let me be perfectly clear about one thing, though: there is absolutely no relation of Xtreme Ministries with Revolution Church.
Much like the disagreement between Jay Bakker and Stu Damron, John and I will probably not see eye-to-eye anytime soon. And really, that’s quite all right. Our love for God and each other as Christian brethren are stronger than any disagreements. God knows I’d like to slap him sometimes, but I know better… he has several black belts.
Pastor Renken’s own story is as incredible as one might imagine and includes a powerful conversion. He was once a member of the temple of Set, a branch of the church of Satan. He was confronted with the power of the living, risen Savior, and has been a passionate Christian ever since.
Make no mistake about it, though. Renken is still very much a gruff, no-holds-barred kind of guy. His work also includes running a mixed martial arts gym, and he fights frequently on the ultimate fighting circuit. His fighting name is John “The Saint” Renken. This guy has literally kicked the ass of every single stereotype of what most people think a pastor should be.
There’s something to this idea of a refreshing form of Christianity that is willing to look beyond differences and embrace things on which we agree. We both agree that the Church at large has treated the gay and lesbian community horribly, and we both agree that God’s grace extends to anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord Jesus.
Grace is indeed an incredible thing; especially when we have the grace to have a Godly friendship with those with whom we disagree–even strongly. I believe with all my heart that the Lord is continuing a movement where He is bringing people together despite disagreements, to build a Body that is without identity; the true body of Christ.
I’m certainly not too arrogant to believe that our friendship is the start of that kind of Christian fellowship overall. I do, however, think that the Lord is bringing His people from all walks of life together for a singular purpose: glorifying His name, and showing the rest of the world around us that Christianity is not a joke, it’s not just a bunch of crap, and His people aren’t constipated.
In fact, we’re rarely tense, hardly ever strain, we have complete freedom in the glory of the living risen Savior, and we are most certainly filled with the Holy Spirit Himself. That’s not just relief from constipated Christianity, it’s deliverance.