GRRR...: Once again I find myself frustrated regarding the public face of Christianity. I thought I was pretty much over my angst, but last week four individual news stories came along, back-to-back. The relationship between the stories hit me and I simply must comment.
- Item: Florida Family Association president and vocal evangelical David Caton fuels the fire of prejudice against American Muslims.
- Item: Presidential candidate Rick Perry releases a new ad that labels gays as un-American and those who support equal rights as enemies of God.
- Item: Atheists in California acquire public space set aside for Nativity scenes and post displays that not only advocate atheism but disrespect personal faith.
- Item: The New York Times runs a commentary by Eric Weiner that advances a point of view that's been gaining a lot of traction lately. I understand where Weiner is coming from, but his argument is based on a religion that's lost sight of Christ. I'll quote from the article then pick up my response.
Put bluntly: God is not a lot of fun these days. Many of us don't view religion so generously. All we see is an angry God. He is constantly judging and smiting, and so are his followers. No wonder so many Americans are enamored of the Dalai Lama. He laughs, often and well. Precious few of our religious leaders laugh. They shout. God is not an exclamation point, though. He is, at his best, a semicolon, connecting people. Somewhere along the way, we've lost sight of this. - NY Times, December 14, 2011
HATERS: Weiner represents a point of view that's gaining adherents because the "haters" have garnered the national spotlight. Too many "Christian" voices define faith in terms of political preference and what they're against, rather than following the example of Jesus and advancing the Gospel of Love.
- The problem with Weiner's article is that it ignores (or is unaware of) the Christianity represented by positive-minded moderates.
- The problem with the atheists' billboards in California is that obnoxious religious voices have, in a way, asked for such a response.
- The problem with candidate Perry and the Muslim-bashing Caton is that exclusionary and judgmental religion seems to have gone mainstream.
P.R. DEFICIT: Evidently those of us who celebrate God's love, who are inspired to spread good news and to serve others, and who leave church every week with a smile on our faces need to do a better PR job for Jesus!
I can't do any better at this point than to quote Jesus himself, who entered this world at Christmas so that hate, hostility, and prejudice could be replaced by the power of self-giving love.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. - John 13:34-35
That is the story we Christians are supposed tell. It's the story of Christmas. And it's the message of Jesus.
Merry Christmas! - DEREK