I don’t know about you, but my Facebook feed recently exploded with opinions about the recent Supreme Court ruling with respect to “gay marriage.”
My Christian friends gave a multitude of opinions, and most of them looked very different.
If you are struggling with all these opinions and having trouble knowing what to think or do next, I think this is a great moment to engage in what the author Gabe Lyons’ terms, “Restoring.”
For a while now, I’ve been a pretty big fan of the perspectives in the series of books, UnChristian, and, The Next Christians.
If you missed it, UnChristian was a landmark book helping Christians understand how Christianity has virtually disintegrated in the public square in American life. It helps us understand how Christianity is perceived and why some old approaches aren’t working any more.
In the much needed follow-up book, The Next Christians, the author, Gabe Lyons, sets forth a new way forward to engage culture.
On the whole, I think there is an urgent need for the perspectives found in these two books to capture the minds of Christians today!
Aside from adding books to your reading list, I feel like it is really important to understand where we all come from before we move forward.
The Next Christians begins by delineating the most common approaches to culture that Christians of the recent past have held:
This diagram taken from the book shows the categories of interaction. You probably know people who would fit into each one or into several at different times. The purpose of this list is to help you understand these groups as well as show what can be the inadequacy of each.
I will very briefly summarize:
Insiders: “Circle the Wagons!” Perhaps better called, “Isolators,” they isolate themselves by doing Christian things and surround themselves by Christian stuff.
Likely to say: Look how bad it’s getting out there.
Culture Warriors: “Fight!” These people are the ones most likely to voice their opinions. They become involved in voicing their concerns in debates and political discussion.
Likely to say: Now is the time to take back America.
Evangelizers: “Win Souls!” Tracts, tactics, concerned with souls and uninterested in about anything else.
Likely to say: All this doesn’t matter, let’s just convert people.
Blenders: “Christians can be cool!” Culturally indistinguishable from non-Christians, they want to blend in and tend to think that the separatist Christians are crazy. They often push for “relevance” in church.
Likely to say: I’m sorry if Christianity was cramping your style, I’ll try to keep it to myself.
Philanthropists: “Do good things!” These people volunteer and are involved in their communities. For them, being Christian means doing social good.
Likely to say: Jesus is about love.
While all of these approaches have had their strengths and weaknesses, the author argues that the way forward is the path of the “Restorers.”
His own synopsis of what a restorer is:
- Provoked, Not Offended
- Creators, Not Critics
- Called, Not Employed
- Grounded, Not Distracted
- In Community, Not Alone
- Civil, Not Divisive
- Countercultural, Not “Relevant”
The trailer for His book can be found here:
This leads me to the point and my own opinion.
For too long Christians have been consumed with being distracted and offended by what is happening in American culture.
While we are called to stand for the common good, Christianity is not called to try and revive a broken political system to forward our own agenda.
It is incredibly sad how divided our nation and fellow Christians have become. Satan always works to divide and fracture. This issue has sharply divided our families, nations, and congregations.
But, the task before us is not a lament. It is a call to hope.
If we realize that we are in post-Christian America, we can understand our relationship with our country in a more constructive light.
Maybe our position in the U.S. is more like Israel’s relationship with Babylon during the period they were taken into exile in the Old Testament. Just like us today, they couldn’t change what was going on around them. The affairs of Babylon were too far removed from the concerns of the God-fearing, alien, Jewish people.
But this is what God told them to do in Jeremiah 29:7. Not to be swept up by the mindset of those around them, but to: “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
While there is a time and place to speak against things, instead of continuing to yell at the cost of losing our voice, we can choose to be salt and light. We can look for the welfare of the places we find ourselves without getting so distracted by everything that is opposed to what we believe is right.
If we understand that our call is to restore, we can see our vocation as being peacemakers, praying for healing to many wounds. We need to have our imaginations captured by the work the church has always been involved in: healing the hurts, evils, and broken lives around us.
We must continue sharing the invitation to live in the reconciliation offered in the gospel.
Rather than becoming frustrated with all that is going on and ready to yell your disapproval, realize that in Christ we have something beautiful and unique to bring into the public sphere:
The Grace of Jesus
(Disclaimer: I know this post is controversial. It was meant to be. I was saddened hearing all the angry Christian rhetoric. If I were talking strictly politics, I’d make a different argument. But American politics is not a central part of who I am. Being a Christian is.)