An open letter to certain Facebook “Christians”

Christianity is changingThe President has been re-elected, and it’s time to put aside your good intentions and inspect your behavior of late. May I?

You and those who lead you have spent the last year in vile character assassinations (a form of murder, but who knew?) in an attempt to convince me (and other “friends”) of the righteousness of your worldview. To those of us who’ve had to endure this bombardment, the relentless hostility of the cartoons, clever images and commentary came off as a haughty justification of your superiority by painting your political enemy as something less than human. This is called “demonizing,” something that your spiritual taproot probably condemns.

I cannot count the number of times I came across the theme “I’m a Christian; I’m voting for Romney,” spoken with certainty, as if a vote for “that other man” was a vote for evil personified. I’m serious. It was that bad. And this thought did not originate with you; you were simply parroting what others inside your bubble were saying. What is it about politics that turns a certain group of Christians into ignorant, raving maniacs?

If your God needs you to participate in the process in this manner then, I’m sorry, but you need a bigger God!

The latest report from the PEW Forum on Religion & Public Life a few weeks ago has many loud messages for those who have ears to hear. Here are three specific findings.

  • The numbers of people who say they are unaffiliated with any religion jumped to almost one in five (19.6%), and those are more likely younger adults.
  • Protestantism fell below the 50% threshold for the first time. Just 48% of Americans call themselves Protestants today, down 5% in just one year. This Protestant decline goes back many years, which leads us to the third finding.
  • When the unaffiliateds were asked for their views about religious institutions, 70% said such institutions are too interested in money and power; focus too much on rules; and are too involved in politics.

So let’s summarize: Protestant Christianity is not only in a significant decline, but it’s pushing its future out the door by an overemphasis on money, power, rules and politics.

The problem, according to Pew, is that the flock sees through these behaviors and is pulling away, and as Stephen Covey once wrote, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into.”

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.

Because I used to live inside this bubble myself, I know the automatic retort — that an increasingly immoral culture is trying to pull you into the gutter with it, and that voting in “righteous” representatives is your duty as citizens. Let me repeat, you need a bigger God. When in history has “the culture” not tried to pull you into the abyss? No, it’s not the culture; it’s your reaction.

It’s my prayer that over the next four years, you’ll begin the important journey of reading the work of those outside your bubble, because the reflection from inside your dwelling place has blinded you, or at least colored your view of truth. I’m as Bible-aware as any of you, but I’ve matured over the years and am now influenced by many other people, views and philosophies. The view from here is much more inclusive but not any easier, and I don’t find any evidence either of a world that’s conveniently just black or white. If it were so, life would be so much simpler. The gray confounds, but that’s where you’ll find God’s spirit most at work.

In the postmodern era about which I write (which some call “postChristian”), the days of automatic, lock-step, Caucasian hierarchical acceptance are on the wane. God in the postmodern world is a participatory god, God, the Holy Spirit, and He is not concerned with a specific “type” of human being only.

If history is any judge, it’s very likely there will be revivals of religion in the 21st Century. Don’t count on them to look like those from the past, however, because the past has, well, passed.

And let’s all consider the old admonition, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Comments

  1. Katie Small says:

    Terry:

    Jay pointed me to your blog today. Like many conservative voters, the loss of this election has carried through the week as an aching sadness for me. He thought I might find some answers in your comments. I am an evangelical conservative voter and as the first paragraph succinctly pointed out, guilty of snarky behavior on Facebook. It’s okay to point that out because everyone in my FB realm has also let me know. However, by the end of the article the answer i sought didn’t materialize. Instead I was left with the bitter aftertaste of arrogant enlightenment which translated as I need to grow up spiritually.

    Just so you know, I didn’t vote for Romney because I was a Christian. I voted for Romney because I wanted a candidate that lived life as close to the way I live it as possible. I’m tired of thuggery, lying, intolerance, and attacks on my rights as a citizen of this country and our Constitution. I just happen to be a Christian.

    Not every Christian lives in a bubble and just because they don’t read philosophy or listen to every different viewpoint, it doesn’t translate into intolerance. i, along with many fellow believers, have tried to live and let live but when biblical principles are challenged by the secular, we are compelled to make a stand for Christ. For example, please tell me where in scripture God says its okay to have an abortion? Because when I say I’m pro-life I’m immediately referred to as bible thumping dumbass Christian. What I actually believe is that if another woman chooses to have an abortion, that is between her and God. However, as a tax paying citizen I don’t want my tax dollars used to fund abortions. And, I don’t want the government mandating my healthcare or forcing relgious institutions to hand out birth control if they don’t believe in it. But your comments seem to suggest that I stand down because cultural conflicts have existed throughout history and that’s just the way it is. That is the exact response Christians get from the world. Is it no wonder we’re on the defensive?

    This brings me to my point, where in your blog did you offer suggestions that help me improve how I take a stand for my faith? Standing down isn’t good enough. What if early Chrisitians had backed down? What about Paul? What I want is leadership on how to be love, be peace, be fire, be life, be happy — all while protecting my right to worship, practice my faith, and share with others. Not a history lesson with a finger pointed at my bad behavior.

    It is a tenuous line we walk. I get that, and I get your point, but the beauty of our walk with Christ is that He meets us where are. Spiritual revival? Oh, yes, we’re definitely going to see that because its going to get worse before it gets better. So may I suggest using your spiritual maturity to help those of us frustrated by secularism be better prepared to be peaceful ambassadors for Christ.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts and I look forward to your reply.

  2. Katie,

    Firstly, thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughtful comments. It’s pretty clear that you’re angry, so I’ll overlook the personal comments and assume a deep sincerity in your questions.

    Before I respond, please understand that I do not see life in black and white terms. It’s way too complicated for that. I believe as it’s written in Ecclesiastes that “Time and chance occurs to everyone.” This removes any judgment about the righteousness or evil of consequences in this life. Therefore, nothing I’m about to say should be taken as absolute in any way, for there is a time to every purpose under heaven. I’m also going to use the terms “us,” “we,” and “our” here, because, despite our differences, I am not your enemy.

    Arguments for or against faith don’t belong in the political arena, for politics is about power — earthly power — and the Gospel is not. We can influence earthly power, but that influence must be indirect and coming through the hearts of humankind. Moreover, if earthly power is what we seek, then we need to examine our hearts and our behavior in light of the results Tuesday. It may be hard to admit, but it ain’t workin’.

    I was there in 1981 when the Christian Right was birthed via The Freedom Council in Virginia Beach. I understand well everything you’ve said — in fact, I helped create some of the slogans and symbols you use — but it’s hard to respond to specificity without untangling decades of blended political and spiritual ideologies. This is why I preach deconstruction, because meaning is often an indirect route and one that has thousands of tributaries. What comes out of our mouths, therefore — and especially in the political/spiritual arena — is often full of intent and meaning that is hidden to anybody other than us. This leaves the listener free to judge motives, and that’s especially problematic politically. Moreover, even the term “Christian” has a hundred different meanings, so where do we begin?

    Let me state emphatically my belief that the Christian Right is a creation of humankind. It is not “of God.” As such, I think it has done more to harm the cause of Christ than anything in the history of the faith, and I think this can be seen in everyday life in the U.S. Let me repeat what I wrote in the above post: If we think God needs us to right the wrongs of secularism, then we have no faith and need a bigger God. I’m so sure of this that I’m convinced this “secularism” is an artificial straw man who exists primarily for fundraising purposes. Sorry to be so cynical, but remember, I was there.

    This is why I believe our behavior is so vastly more important than our intent. The world calls you stupid or illiterate for believing, and you react, because you know you are both intelligent and educated. This is a trap, and the way out is to take a giant step back and examine fundamentals.

    You wrote: “I, along with many fellow believers, have tried to live and let live but when biblical principles are challenged by the secular, we are compelled to make a stand for Christ.” Really? Says who? It’s written in the gospels that Jesus said, “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 lamp stand, 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.”

    This does not suggest making “a stand for Christ” in the secular arena; it directs believers to be salt and light, which transcends these earthly battles. The war is on the inside of the human heart, not on the outside, and I would argue that the rise in what we might view as evil in the world is more a reflection of our decision to abandon the salt and light mission in the pursuit of political power in order to abate what feels like an attack.

    He also said we’ll be persecuted for being salt and light. Instead of accepting that, even embracing it, we’ve chosen to fight back against it. In so doing, we’ve already lost. Dissatisfied with unprofitable servant status, we want to have our cake and eat it, too. I honestly sympathize with your wish to live in a world where leadership matches your inside, but I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking. Besides, God might have other plans, but that’s hard to see when we’re so busy fighting surface battles. The whole idea of the Gospel, after all, is to enable us to live happily and contented regardless of what’s going on around us, right? That comes from trusting God as a higher power instead of trusting ourselves or our ability to change people, places and things.

    Let me repeat. The Christian Right is an invention of man, not God. It’s all about earthly power, not the power to change lives from the inside-out. It is self-centered in ways that are obscured by the good intentions of its practitioners.

    So be of good cheer, Katie. Sometimes Life has to break our hearts in order to communicate with us, but life on the other side is always better, if we’ll let it be. David learned that lesson with Bathsheba when God gave him Solomon.

    The future is bright, although it may not seem like it today.

    Terry

  3. Katie,

    I am one of the young people who grew up in the church, was chased out by several factors of which a big one was the politics, and will never be back. Your comment here made me bang my head on my desk because you sound so otherwise sincere and intelligent.

    First, Exodus clearly shows the penalty for causing a miscarriage to be significantly less than that of killing a woman. Even the harsh OT version of God considered fetuses lesser in value to that of women.

    Second, read the Hyde Amendment. Your federal tax dollars DO NOT pay for abortions. That’s a conservative-media rallying cry with no basis in reality. Even if your tax dollars paid for abortions all day, why does that bother you more than your tax dollars paying for drone strikes on middle eastern women (at least some of whom were pregnant) and children? Why is one an issue worthy of concern and not the other?

    Third, it breaks my heart to see the Republican party use this issue like a shepherd’s crook to keep the sheep in line. Abortion has been legal for almost 40 years. ***The Republican party likes it that way!!!!!*** They pay lip service to opposing it, but they never do a single thing about it. Under George W. Bush, the GOP had, for 6 years, the White House, both houses of Congress, 35 governorships, and 7 of the 9 Supreme Court seats. They didn’t even TRY to stop abortion in any real way. They did nothing because they’re never going to do anything. Every time you show up and vote against your own economic interests (which you did, unless you make more than $250,000 a year) they win. You are being used. Cynically used.

    Fourth, if you really want to reduce abortion, look at why women have them. Over 60% already have a child. Countries with mandatory paid maternity leave and universal healthcare have significantly lower abortion rates than the US does.

    I don’t think you’re a dumbass for being pro-life. I think you’re a dumbass for being a pro-life Republican voter. Women get abortions because they can’t afford to feed and care for a child (or, more than 60% of the time, *another* child). So if people really care about saving babies (and yes, I freely admit that abortion ends actual human lives) how about voting for the party that wants to bail out someone other than bankers and CEOs? How about supporting better access to birth control? Women who don’t use birth control at all experience more miscarriages (what doctors call “spontaneous abortions”) than women on the pill do. Why is abortion ok with the pro-life when God is the abortionist?

    I’m not going to rant all day here — just, please, please, please really think about what just happened. Your party nominated a Massachusetts moderate whose own Romneycare provided State taxpayer-funded abortions there.

    Christians all over America lined up to vote for a man who HAS ACTUALLY DONE what they thought Obama MIGHT do.

    I’ll never be back in church. I would be if I thought anyone there cared more about being like Jesus, who loved people and fed the hungry and WAS a single-payer healthcare provider, than about making people afraid. Life is very, very hard and I can make myself plenty afraid with no help from any preacher.

  4. Christopher Brown says:

    This is all so breathtakingly absurd that I hardly know where to begin. Does anyone ever wonder why God simply doesn’t step out from behind a cloud and say, “I’m here.” This would solve all the world’s problems, every single one. Sadly, believers come up with the most convoluted excuses for the Lord’s crippling shyness–but never the obvious one: He’s not there. Wake up! God doesn’t protect you, He doesn’t guide you, He doesn’t provide for you, He doesn’t do any of the stuff preachers claim–but you’ll say He does because you’re ashamed to admit that you’ve been taken in like a chump by some guy in a robe. Has anyone ever considered thinking for yourself instead of looking to Heaven or some half-baked book of nonsensical rules to do it for you. Love and a sense of fairness is all you need to save the world.

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