This past Thursday, the Los Angeles Times ran a story from Orange County on a Christian bikers group—you know, those people who wear lots of black leather gear and have fierce tattoos and drive enormous, intimidating motorcycles which make a lot of noise.
But this article said a Christian bikers group, known as the “Set Free Soldiers”, describing themselves as “a group of men who love Jesus and love to ride hard” was founded by an ex-convict and ex-drug addict, Phil Aguilar over 25 years ago, after he became a Christian in prison.
This isn’t exactly my cup of tea (but then I drive a Prius, more conservatively than any other car I’ve had, to maximize my mileage). But I figure, like a lot of folks, well maybe they can reach people that ordinary churches can’t.
Steven Sawyer’s long-haired, tattooed Jesus.
The story wasn’t about this unusual ministry to ex-felons and ex-druggies, however. The story was about seven members of the Set Free Soldiers being arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Aguilar is being held on $1 million bail and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. All this after a double stabbing and a nasty brawl with some of the Hells Angels in a bar in Newport Beach that required 150 officers, including SWAT teams and Federal drug agents, to round up.
It sounds like a ”B movie” script, with the “biker soldiers of God” in a do-or-die struggle with the “biker soldiers of Satan.” Except, this is no black hat and white hat drama. According to the Times, a neighbor of the Set Free Soldiers’ leader in Anaheim described the group as having a history of intimidating the neighbors and having taken over the neighborhood. For the past several years, apparently, some of the Set Free Soldiers have even been carrying guns.
This is a Christian bikers group? These are men who love Jesus?
LA Times caption: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times
An officer stands watch after an early morning raid by the Anaheim Police department on several homes in Anaheim occupied by the Set Free Soldiers Christian motorcycle group.
I cannot help musing over some of our own times’ most-fun rhetorical questions. What would Jesus ride? What would Jesus wear? Who would Jesus intimidate? What weapon would Jesus carry?
I think this all makes the point that even Christian people are not clear on the concept. There are still a lot of goody-good Christians out there, who are staid, conservative, boring, and digging in their heels against every social change. Then there are liberal Christians who embrace every social change, buy into the latest fads, and have nearly forgotten that the Scriptures call us to self-discipline and self-denial, and expect Christians to take up the cross and follow Jesus. And there are Christians whose worship services are indistinguishable from a rock concert, and the decibels would deafen anybody over 30. And there are Christians who still try to retreat from the world, chant ancient-sounding music in monotones, and keep their hands clean from all the grime of this crazy world.
Who are we, and what is our one, single, clear message? Gay and lesbian people aren’t the only ones who think the Christians are not clear on the concept. There are millions of estranged people out there who are glad to get away from ours and every other religion because our spiritual teaching is so muddled, or so unspiritual, or so worthless in the real world today with its huge and pressing problems, as to be part of the problem, not part of the solutions.
It takes enormous courage to remain open and loving, liberal and steadfast in what we believe. It takes more than slippery-slope thinking to be able to affirm same-gender marriage, read the Bible seriously but not literally, give one’s heart and time and resources to total strangers, and try to follow Jesus. To walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
After all, it’s about Christ, not about us. Not our prejudices, our politics, our outfits, our bikes, our tats, or our tastes and distastes. To be a Christian today is going to require all of us to unload our past views and rethink our approach to living faithfully in our times.
—Pastor Dan Hooper, Los Angeles