taking the words of Jesus seriously

A church called Point of Grace in Iowa that was renting off-site office space to a day care center has taken a rather radical turn. Ironically, it appears they’re offering anything but grace to those who toe the moral line.

The Church administration that owned the property abruptly called staff and parents of Happy Time Preschool & Daycare in for a meeting where they announced the center would be shut down. A new facility, to be called would take its place. All staff would have one week to reapply for their jobs, and all working there, as well as those sending their children to the new academy, must now agree to a rigid code of conduct developed by the church.

A few no-nos that will cause you to lose your job at the Academy or your child’s place in the student body include:

  • Being gay
  • Opposite-sex cohabitation outside of marriage
  • No drugs or alcohol (not just for the kids; adults too)
  • No use of vulgarity (anywhere, not just on school grounds)
  • No pornography (though what qualifies as such is unclear)

This “Christian Lifestyle Agreement” is reportedly founded upon Biblical principles, though I suppose they’re referring to a Bible other than the ones I have. But regardless of the justification they employ, there are some critical issues at play here, as I see it.

Yes, they are within the scope of the law as far as I can tell, given that they are running a private business. If the school is benefiting from any nonprofit status maintained by the church, however, I expect civil rights activists will have a field day. But for a church to establish such moral codes in an effort to control the ways of life of all involved seems to place a premium on their moral self-righteousness over the humanity of those they are charged by Jesus to serve.

Too often, the collateral damage in the culture wars is people. if, in fact, Jesus, his words and his way of life are our foremost example for our own lives, this graceless, self-aggrandizing act is anything but Christian.

And to have the word “grace” in both the name of the church and the school simply adds insult to obvious injury. If grace is conditional, it’s not grace, period.

Finally, the fact that such headline-grabbing sensationalism ends up establishing the baseline for the rest of Christianity in people’s minds does far more damage than any perceived benefit gained by trying (likely in vain) to control behaviors but things as fundamental as sexual orientation. Moves like this not only corrupt the Christian name in mainstream culture; they further buttress the implicit message so many get from Christians already:

You are not worthy. Therefore, you are not welcome.

No wonder prominent leaders like author/speaker Donald Miller avoid using words like “Christian, ” simply because they are so laden with negative perception. Increasingly, I see and hear people calling themselves “Christ followers, ” which effectively is synonymous with “Christian, ” but without the stereotypes. My concern in doing so, though understandable, is that giving up ground in the debate about Christian identity only helps to reinforce the prevalence of such cancerous theology still within the Christian tent.

Such brazen acts of inhumanity can only be met with an equal degree of compassion, humility, inclusion and true grace – not just on a church sign, but in our words and deeds. It’s one thing to speak out in opposition of egregious acts in the name of our faith; it’s entirely another to live out the grace to all we encounter. The word looks nice on a church bulletin or day care sign, but to have such a beautiful word be associated with this kind of toxic, hypocritical behavior is a sin for which we Christians should all beg the world’s forgiveness.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and . Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on or Facebook.

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