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August 20, 2010

I love MonsterQuest and I’m not ashamed to say it. If I had the time to fly up to Washington and spend a week in the woods looking for Bigfoot I would do it in a heartbeat. Going on my own MonsterQuest just sounds like too much fun.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you haven’t lived, or at least you’re not watching quality television. MonsterQuest is a show that comes on The History Channel and seeks to find the truth behind the great crytozoology mysteries of the world: Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, etc. I can’t get enough. I don’t care if they never find anything or if their “evidence” always turns out to be a blurry, indistinguishable image. It’s entertaining. And it’s fun to think that there are still mysteries in life that we can’t explain. (Even if those mysteries are just a figment of our imaginations) There’s nothing wrong with believing in things we know aren’t true, right?

Bigfoot and the church many not seem to have a whole lot in common at first glance, unless maybe your pastor is tall and really hairy. I think they do. In fact, I think the church has a lot in common with things like MonsterQuest. Simply put, we are often not only willing, but we prefer suspending all the evidence and everything we know (in other words the truth) in order to believe in something fantastical simply because we want to believe it.

No matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, some people will always be convinced that there was somebody on the grass knoll. Even though the MythBusters proved beyond a doubt that we walked on the moon, there are people who will always be convinced that it was all filmed on a Hollywood studio. “Truthers” find it easier to believe that the US government flew airplanes into buildings and through a highly coordinated effort managed to keep it a secret, even though that same government can’t figure out how to effectively hand out driver’s licenses or keep potholes patched. And “birthers” will never believe that Obama was born in Hawaii until they can travel back in time and be in the delivery room themselves.

You see this phenomena everywhere of course, including the church. And I think that this is where it has been the most destructive. Despite the fact that there are countless good Christian scientists who believe in both the Bible AND evolution, there are hordes of people convinced that if God didn’t form the earth in 6 literal days then somehow by extension Jesus must not have been raised from the dead. Others believe passionately that the King James Version is the only true version of the Bible and all others are intentional corruptions. More recently there are throngs of people convinced that the so-called “emergent church” is a monolithic organization that meets daily in their ornate headquarters in order to plan their takeover of the church.

The fundamental problem with the church’s monster quest is that there are those who, despite what their targets may say or do, are convinced others are lying. This is why monster quests in the church are so dangerous. Anyone can go on one. All they have to do is decide that they carry the torch of truth and God has commanded them to snuff out everyone else’s torches. You can’t argue with them. It doesn’t matter how rational you are, how loving you are, or even how much biblical evidence you might present. If you don’t conform to their image of the faith, then you’re not just wrong, you’re a heretic who’s trying to destroy the church. In the words of my former college’s president they are Christian jihadists who have declared their own holy war (or monster quest) on the church. In the words of St. Paul, “they’ve exchanged the truth of God for lie.”

The beauty of the church lies in its diversity, not in monolithic conformity. We are one body with MANY parts. We don’t all have to agree or even get along all the time, but we can never say to the body “I don’t need you.” Yes there are edges of the faith, places where we can go no farther lest we cease to be Christian. And yes there are many who use the name “Christian” who have crossed over these edges, but they are not the norm, at least not yet.

There is no easy answer to the Christian monster quest hunter, but I would suggest the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Come let us reason together.” If Jesus was a fan of telling the truth, and I think we can all agree that He was, then for Him when it all comes down to it and we stand before Him in heaven He’s not going to be standing there with a checklist to see whether we were creationist or evolutions, KJV people or NIV people, emergent or not. He’s going to ask us this: I was hungry, did you feed me? I was thirsty, did you give me something to drink? I was naked, did you clothe me? I was in prison, did you come and visit me?

As long as there are places in the world where we can’t answer yes to these questions we don’t have the time to go on monster quests.

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