Friday, October 27, 2017

Public Christianity

The conversation I mentioned yesterday has continued, with someone else chiming in:
Steve, actually I've seen atheists and those of New Age thought blaming "All Christians" in a lump sum for Trump's election or call them the "hard Christian right." You say you are a Christian to these folks and they scoff or turn up their noses. Some of my friends on FB are very anti-Christian, so much they won't even listen or believe a real Christian.
I replied:
Hi ____. I've heard "reports" of such things but I've never seen research into such anecdotes. I'm hoping to write more about this topic (of "damage" to evangelism etc.) that results from such "identification" of [white] Christians with Trump.
But there's an even bigger question. What's the relationship between "the Gospel" (the good news of God's grace given through Jesus) and any given Christian's support or opposition to particular governmental officials (or their policies, statements and actions)?

I hope it's obvious that Christians won't want to just decide who and what to support or oppose based on what's popular, but should they at least consider what effect their positions will have on their ability to evangelize? I think I was initially drawn to the good news of Jesus because of the compassionate, racially sensitive and environmentally conscious actions of the leaders of my "home church." They supported generally conservative moral values, but those values weren't trumpeted or pushed out on those who weren't part of our church.

So I wonder, as someone who grew up in a Christian home, whether I would have been drawn to Jesus if I hadn't seen Christian faith and love in action, or if my home church leaders' had seemed mostly "negative" toward the world. And, beyond that, I wonder what I would have thought if I hadn't grown up in a Christian home and the main things I hard about Christians was that they were supporting nationalism, working against widely available health care and governmental aid to the poor and trying to impose their moral standards on others (while being led by a candidate to doesn't seem to care about those same morals).

Last Sunday, at the church that Toni and I are connecting with now, we heard a message that's part of a series on Paul's Letter to the Galatians." In it Paul challenges the idea that Christianity, like Judaism, is a sort of cultural movement, that is, a group that wants to distinguish itself from others through certain patterns of behavior. Instead, Paul says, the only distinguishing feature of Christians is their dependence on Jesus, Jesus who accepts and loves us just as we are. Our preacher quoted someone who said: Jesus "plus" (anything) is no good news at all.

So I ask: Do the public positions of Christians matter? How should our political opinions connect with our primary business of loving as Jesus loved and letting others know who we depend on? Should we hope and pray and work to make our government do "good works" for others? Or should we limit those things to what individuals and non-government groups can do?

Some conservative Christians put such a high value on "limited government" that they don't think that government ought to be in the "loving" or "caring" business in any way. Should we care what non-Christians think about this position?

On the other hand, other Christians
think that the government should reflect what they think of as a basic Christian commitment to the poor and to those who don't have the resources to stand up to evil by themselves. There has been a movement in the United States, and in the world, in that "human rights" direction--at least since WWII and the Holocaust.

I need to go off to work now. Maybe I'll get back to this later tonight.

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