My God is a conservative liberal

Two students pose to show contrasting styles of dress. | PC: Zach Morrison

Two students pose to show contrasting styles of dress. | PC: Zach Morrison

Following the call

Liberal. Conservative. Does controversy ever cease within the church? We bicker and judge, label and split. We drive people out of the church on one side, and promote an “anything goes” attitude on the other.

We forget there might be a third point of view: Middle ground.

God is explicit on many things, and spells them out in no uncertain terms in His word: Sabbath, lying, premarital sex. In other instances however, He’s vague.

Have you ever tried to look up modesty in the Bible? There isn’t much there! Other controversial topics are similar: music styles, jewelry. Not much, if anything at all, is written about them. Perhaps it was a mistake.

Or—could it be that some things don’t matter as much as we think they do?

A tiny cinderblock church has no access to musical instruments other than a drum and a guitar. Does it offend God when guitar brings music to the Sabbath? Does it anger Him when the drum is used to bring rhythm and joy into worship?

The people on a remote Pacific island live on rice and fish. Vegetables don’t grow well because of the rocky soil, and imported perishables are unaffordable. Does it frustrate God that His people won’t eat a vegan diet?

The climate is humid and hot year-round. There’s no air conditioning, so people wear shorts and t-shirts or tank tops. Young children don’t wear any clothes at all. Is God offended by the exposed skin?

I’m convinced many of the issues that divide liberals and conservatives are simply cultural—or even personal—preferences. Because we live in a religious society that functions a particular way, we believe things should be that way everywhere.

Our experience is known, comfortable; therefore, anything different is wrong.

While this is an understandable part of culture shock, in religion it becomes a large problem because our perspective suddenly becomes a moral statement. We’re convinced God thinks our way is correct. If we’re offended or uncomfortable, God is offended or uncomfortable. If we don’t approve, God doesn’t approve.

Unfortunately, this puts Him in a rather small box, and limits the ways He can work. If we’re busy judging others—especially church members—because of their habits or outward appearance, how can God use us to show them love?

My God is big, and He is flexible.

What if, instead of putting up walls toward people we don’t agree with, we consider sometimes God is okay with a range of options? What if we accept culture and principle have a lot to do with whether something is wrong or right?

What if we humble ourselves to see that God desires our actions to be motivated by respect for Him rather than by manmade guidelines?

What if?

Ginger Hany is a senior studying biomedical science.