At Least They’re Talking About Us, Right?
To me, it seems like most of what we hear about followers of Jesus who hold strong Biblical views is negative. It seems as though more often than not, people with cameras and microphones go out of their way to find people as far out on the fringe as possible to give them air time. Sometimes the results are… amusing. Sometimes the results are frightening and make us want to stand up and shout, “They’re not with us!” like we were at some social event. Every once in a while, they get it right but it’s on your local news station in the middle of the day on the weekend when most of us are doing other things. Good luck finding the video…
At times, it feels like there is nothing positive reported about who we are, what we do to support our communities, how we love one another, how we give to the poor, how we free people from sex trafficking, etc. I’ve heard it said that bad press is better than no press. I’m not convinced…
So what’s the deal with all this negativity? I have a theory (call it a working hypothesis), but you probably won’t like it. No, I’m not going to tell you that there is a war on Christians – while that may or may not be the case, I have not uncovered any secret plans or documents to prove that theory one way or the other. No, the issue is actually even more basic than that. The issue is that we live in a society that is hurdling headlong toward an amoral or (more likely) immoral stance in general. The direction in which we are travelling as an American society will eventually put social norms at odds with adherents of most exclusive religions (think the big three). Pan-theists and groups that have flexible doctrines will probably be fine. My hypothesis is that growing numbers of Americans (many of them who carry a great deal of influence) are seeking freedom from religion not freedom of religion.
A Little Leaven…
I had a conversation with a long-time friend recently in which we discussed policy changes in a well-known religious organization. What I noted during the conversation is that regarding many social issues (that is, moral issues hijacked for political purposes), churches and religious organizations are under increasing pressure to conform their practices to social norms. Yes, I could give you example after example but if you take a few minutes to read headlines, then research what is actually happening, you will see what I mean. In some cases, these religious groups actually make policy changes to become more in sync with social and cultural norms. Not surprisingly, this also has the effect of neutralizing bad publicity and anger towards those groups – at least temporarily.
The Plot Thickens
But that’s not the most interesting part. What I noticed is that, in many cases, those groups (PACs, lobbying groups and other social groups) that are pushing these religious organizations to change how they view and deal with the world, they are simultaneously in vehement opposition to those groups having any influence on American culture whatsoever. I know, you’re thinking, “well, yeah… that’s how it works.” What I want to call to your attention is the double standard. The same people who are shouting for separation of church and state are simultaneously shouting for churches to conform to their world-views or suffer the consequences (minimizing business growth, revocation of federal tax exemption, public shaming, protests, etc.). Wait, what?
Yes, think about it for a moment. How many times have you seen group x have their representative and an attorney from a well-known organization stand at a podium and talk about religious organization y and how horrible they are; how they mistreat and abuse people and how their views are both non-scriptural and barbarian. You’ve probably seen politicians do the same thing. Though, I think they do it for sake of popularity. The point – there are actually people who want separation of church and state and to force conformity on churches at the same time. Really, it seems like they want religious groups to keep to themselves in a box somewhere where they cannot influence or infect anyone with their ideas.
I know that sounds fairly intense. And I fully realize that I could be way off base. On the one hand, I could dismiss this and say, “perhaps it is just my imagination.” Though, I am fairly observant, and I do tend to be a bit of a news-junkie. I could scrutinize my own beliefs and those of likeminded individuals because, perhaps we are too rigid in our conceptualization of the faith. Though, I actually do scrutinize my own beliefs rather often by comparing them to the text of scripture itself. Please don’t misunderstand, I am in no way suggesting that there is no possibility my own understanding of scripture and my own beliefs cannot possibly be flawed. To the contrary, I am at all times open to discussion of my beliefs (follow me as I go down a bunny trail for a moment).
How to Have a Bible Debate and Not Lose Your Mind
The parameters of said discussion must be as follows:
- Approach me with love/respect (no name calling ?)
- Isolate any arguments to the scripture itself (no extra-biblical doctrines, terms or thoughts)
- No invocation of social ideas, customs or norms
- No anecdotal evidence
- No pseudo-science (facts only, no correlation as causation nonsense)
Really, you too should consider creating some sort of boundaries for these types of discussions as it will save you tremendous heartache, headache (and perhaps keep you from having high blood pressure). When it comes down to it, who has time to get into a fight about what the Bible says? I’ve seen time and again where people who have either chosen to reimagine the content of the Bible to fit a modern (or post-modern) ethos. I have read writings by people with barely even a basic familiarity with the Bible who choose to make assertions about its content, context and meaning. I imagine that Christians are not alone in this treatment.
It’s Still Really Frustrating
The truth is, it is frustrating to turn on the television or login to a social media account and see people of faith maligned vilified and painted with the same broad brush as those on the fringes I mentioned earlier. Side note – it’s the same tactic some have used to create a narrative about those belonging to specific socioeconomic and/or ethnic groups for years. And, yes, it is very effective. Whoever controls the story (whoever does the storytelling) controls the narrative.
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”― George Orwell, 1984
Another side note – if you thought 1984 was about surveillance, you might want to re-read it because it’s not…
Reaching a Turning Point
Where am I going with all this? The point I’m trying to make here is that perhaps you have felt isolated by your beliefs. I know at times, I certainly have. Perhaps you have felt the pressure to conform to a social norm or modify your reading of scripture to avoid being ostracized or even to protect your social status. Perhaps you have felt like you are alone or like you have no good options here. I am writing this to tell you, you are not alone. You are not an island. At some point, you simply have to choose to be the you He created you to be, regardless of the cost.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to [the] courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. “For it is not you who speak, but [it is] the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father [his] child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish [going through] the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more [will they malign] the members of his household!(Matthew 10:16-25 NASB)
Let Your Light Shine
At some point, we must put aside whatever we are feeling that prevents us from living our faith… in the open. At some point we must change the narrative by being the church full-time. At some point, you and I will have to ensure that let our light shine.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 5:14-16 NASB)
If we do it right (Biblically), we might be amazed at how many people see through the false narrative and realize that our purpose is to love others as He has loved us. While the fakers, charlatans and phonies may not be going anywhere and there while there may always be a talking head ready to shove a microphone in their faces, if we show them who we are by our love toward one another and our love toward them, reasonable people will see and understand the difference. Those whom the Lord is calling to repentance will heed the call and walk the narrow way with us. In a future post, I’ll break that down a little more and talk about what Biblical witnessing should look like. But for now, maybe just go out there and live like you’ve been redeemed.