Some of you may remember the comedian, Emo Philips. He used to do a routine about seeing a guy on the Golden Gate Bridge. The short version went like this:
Once I saw this guy on a
bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
He said, “Nobody loves me.”
I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.”
I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
He said, “A Christian.”
I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.
If you’re interested in seeing the long version, you can check it out on YouTube. Emo is definitely an acquired taste, but I’ve acquired it.
Too Close to Home
His joke, while funny, hits a bit too close to home. We Christians often wear blinders when it comes to our theology and our loyalties. We seem more apt to hold to the old saw that states, “Birds of a feather flock together” than we are to worship Jesus in unity. We divide ourselves by denomination, theology, practice, tradition, and (even more sadly) sometimes by race.
The late Keith Green used to tell a story about going to perform a concert for a congregation in the northwestern part of the country. He discovered, while there, that the congregation was the result of a church split. They were Baptists who argued over whether the water in the baptistery should be heated or allowed to remain cold. A disgusted Green referred to them as the “hot water Baptists” and the “cold water Baptists.” Need I say more?
Green’s experience illustrates an even deeper divide. We not only carve ourselves up into denominations, but we also seem to do our darndest to pare ourselves up even further. The denomination in which I served for almost forty years is a prime example of this. We are currently poised to possibly enter into a three-way split. If that occurs, it will undoubtedly result in an untold number of splinter groups as well.
I’m not a believer in “unity at all costs,” but I do take seriously the Lord’s call for cohesiveness among the brethren. I’m thinking I should be comfortable worshiping with almost any congregation, praying with any prayer warriors, and doing spiritual battle shoulder-to-shoulder with any Christian soldier.
Emo’s joke sheds an uneasy light on our failure to do these things. So, please don’t push me off the bridge.
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]