Ok, here’s the first interaction with The UnChristian. Let me quote a few lines first:
…outsider’s most common reaction to the faith: they think Christians no longer represent what Jesus had in mind, that Christianity in our society is not what is was meant to be. [p. 15]
“Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and stream-lined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that has lost its own heart.” [An outsider in Mississippi, p. 15]
The church desperately needs more people who facilitate a deeper, more authentic vision of the Christian faith in our pluralistic, sophisticated culture.
Ok, so that’s the beginning. The word “un-christian” comes from the idea that those who are outside the faith look inside at Christianity and think that though we bear the name Christian, that we no longer reflect our own beliefs and values. It seems that outsiders are looking at the Christian world, and they may even want what the Scriptures or Jesus have to offer, but want little of what our modern expression of Christianity has to offer. They see a dualism between the lives we live or the character we exude and the beliefs and values the Scriptures profess.
I’m going to have to agree on this in some very particular areas. Here’s one thing that has frustrated me for a long time. We are quite strong and committed to “certain” biblical values. This always comes up for me when we begin to get near election time. Though I’m often accused of being a democrat, I’m actually not. The reason I’m accused of being a democrat is because I hold some biblical values that aren’t republican, such as Care of Creation, concern for the poor, concern for the health of all people, a strong aversion to military agression and preemptive force, and limits on personal wealth accumulation among other things. In any case, we evangelical Christians seem to pick and choose the things that we like from Scripture and from the ways of Jesus, and don’t approach the Bible holistically. Though are tradition has been to hold up the inerrancy of the Scriptures and to say that they are the “only rule of faith and life” for us, we tend to ignore a high percentage of its values and commands because they don’t line up with our personal or corporate lifestyle patterns.
This is just one example of what the world sees in us, that we have reconstructed Jesus and reconstructed Christianity not around holistic and true biblical values, but a) around certain biblical values and b) around re-constructed biblical values. Simply put, we have redefined Christianity. One of the great problems with our redefinition of biblical values is that, frankly, we’re not honest about it. We still talk and act as if we are submitting to the counsel and rule of the Word and we exhort others to submit themselves to our interpretation and reconstruction of the biblical vision while simultaneously claiming that we don’t have an interpretation and that our exegesis of the biblical way is clearly the right one. This has been Evangelical Christianity’s argument against postmodern or deconstructionist readings of the Scripture that acknowledge how the cultural influence on our reading and application of the Scriptures. Instead of acknowledging that our culture and values do impact our interpretation and that we do have a hermeneutic and then relying deeply on the Holy Spirit to convict and correct and lead, we claim to have the ability to see and declare a “plain reading” of the text that is without interpretive baggage. There are passages that are very clear. No doubt. We’re right about many of them. And there are passages that are very clear that we ignore and move to the bottom of the pile because they assault our culture, our real values, and our personal lifestyles.
Outsiders see that. Outsiders want to see people of consistency, integrity, and honesty. They’re not seeing it.
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