Last week I watched Morning Joe with Ralph Reed on as a guest. He was asked about the range of subjects that currently occupy political conversations, one of them being gun control. Mr. Reed offered his personal opinion on the matter which I’d summarize as serious skepticism about the efficacy of anything that might be attempted. Just the day before his appearance, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, passed a resolution reiterating the concerns the General Convention has expressed about gun violence in our culture. Suffice it to say, I was struck by, let me say jarred by, these two very different responses: one from Ralph Reed, conservative Christian activist; and one from the Executive Council, on the liberal side of social and cultural issues. These two responses taken together did not present a coherent Christian perspective on the matter. Indeed, were anyone to place the two responses side by side, they would probably conclude Ralph Reed as a Christian speaks in favor of the Republican response to gun issues and the Executive Council as Christians speak in favor of the Democratic approach to the same questions.
So, a couple of questions come to mind. In post-Christendom America, do individual religious leaders or religious groups really believe they can influence politicians on outcomes by issuing pronouncements or personal statements about such matters? Aren’t such actions in and of themselves, automatic Christendom responses which are therefore wasted effort in a post-Christendom culture? And what happens when Christian leaders offer contradictory and mutually exclusive statements on the cultural issues of the day? Would this be confusing to any who are paying attention? Does the inconsistency in responses dilute even further any possible Christian impact on the matter at hand?
So, what do you think? Is James Davison Hunter (To Change the World) correct, that the culture is at best, highly skeptical about anything Christians say publicly and therefore the Christian movement is best served by holding our peace and concentrating on being, salt, light and leaven in the world until such time as say, a generation or two, we might regain the credibility that is necessary to speak publicly to the culture again. Or, is Ross Douthat (Bad Religion) correct, that cultural Christianity is essential to our society and the mainline churches must recover some vitality and consistency and get back in the game to bring positive influence to bear on the culture?
In this post-Christendom context, don’t we Christians need to hone our message to the world so that Christianity speaks with, despite our many differences, a more coherent, consistent and therefore intelligible voice to the culture?
Do we need to resist the temptation to comment or speak about every single thing and choose our moments with more consideration, addressing candidly the deeper, underlying issues of our common life, while always offering the word of good news, hope and encouragement to those responsible for addressing the issues? Perhaps it would be a less complicated matter to speak with a more consistent voice if we disciplined ourselves to expend our words on fewer and weightier concerns.
It appears to me that in this new context, it is necessary for all Christians to realize that the days of making distinctions between ourselves for the purpose of attracting new members (we’re not like those ___________s!) or trying to gain credibility with others at the expense of other Christians, are long past. We are truly in it together now. What each Christian does or says reflects either favorably or unfavorably on all of us. I don’t believe that our non-Christian neighbors who share this culture with us make any distinctions between reasonable or unreasonable, liberal or conservative Christians. We just all get lumped together, period.
If that’s the case, our message needs to get sharper and clearer. Things really don’t have to be this way. There is a better way. Come and follow Jesus and see for yourself.
photo souce: www.rejesus.co.uk