Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love, theology, Komen, and LifeWay

One sentence gave me pause.
"LifeWay canceled the project last year amid reports that some Komen affiliates gave money to Planned Parenthood."
It appeared in an Associated Baptist Press article about criticism leveled by Thom Rainer, head of LifeWay Christian Resources - the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention - at Susan G. Komen for the Cure's announcement that it was reversing its days-old decision to "disassociate from Planned Parenthood."

The "project" to which the sentence referred involved "plans to sell copies of the Here's Hope Breast Cancer Awareness Bible with a portion of proceeds benefitting Komen."

Lifeway had originally scuttled the project last year "amid reports that some Komen affiliates gave money to Planned Parenthood." The article went on to explain that "Despite assurance that none of [Komen's grants to Planned Parenthood] were used to fund abortions, LifeWay officials said they did not want to be identified with Planned Parenthood even indirectly."

Let me say right here, upfront, that I respect LifeWay's concerns about abortion.

But what did Jesus say should come first? Our theology . . . or people?

When asked for the "greatest commandment," Jesus gave two, and both had to do with love, not theological purity. The first? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." The second, which Jesus said is part-and-parcel of the first one, is to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:37; 39, NIV)

I'm concerned when we express a theological rigidity that refuses even "to be identified with" those with whom we disagree or even those whom we identify as violating the precepts of Scripture.

Most of all, I'm concerned about Bibles gathering dust in a warehouse. LifeWay decided to let those Bibles sit in a warehouse rather than put them in the hands of someone who needs God's good news. That decision was momentarily under review after Komen's initial decision to deny grants to Planned Parenthood. But Bob Allen reports, in the ABP article, that Komen's reversal of that decision means that those Bibles "likely won't be going anywhere soon."

I'll grant you that Komen has had a rough month - first announcing, under pressure from one side, that it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood; then reversing field, by now under pressure from the other side, by restoring a portion (but not all) of that funding. It makes it hard to make a case for either of these decisions being made as a matter of conviction rather than expediency.

But all of this shouldn't obscure the remarkable good that has been done for so many by Susan G. Komen for the Cure over the years. By ministering to those in need of hope or in need of prevention or simply in need of care, it is ministering to Jesus:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . . whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me." (Matthew 25:35-36; 40, NIV)
Can we accept that the Jesus who ate with sinners, who met people where they were and loved them, would want the Good News - which so many desperately need - held hostage to our theology? Whether the printed word, or the word of God's Spirit written on our hearts and clothed in our love, shouldn't it be out there where people need it?

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