Outside Reality TV, Into Reality
[Disclaimer: this blog has been particularly thorny to write, and there are many caveats that may not have been cleared. Please read accordingly, leave comment if needed!]
[Regarding Mr. Busey’s team prayer in “Celebrity Fit Club 2” SEE PREVIOUS BLOG]
Unfortunately America is long past the point beyond which we can expect people to join with us under Jesus’ name in prayer. I am not selling out to ecumenism here, just making a point.
Somewhere between 1990 or all the way back to the late ’60’s, there has been an erosion of the Judeo-Christian social culture that America was founded upon. I am thankful for this heritage and want to preserve it, but I also realize that we cannot force unwilling people back into a mold that they do not want.
I will not go so far as to settle for this situation. I just don’t think laws and arguments for their own sake will convince people. Actually it’s probably better to pray for genuine heart change for the public rather than just a return to what they perceive as 1950’s values. There is a significant percentage of the culture that resents that term and what it represents to them.
Our Perceived Response
The normal response of the religious community in my experience to this reality is to try to 1. convince the disenfranchised objectors that America’s heritage should be preserved intact. This is a noble aim, but doesn’t always work since the emotions tend to overrule logic. When this doesn’t work, we often 2. don’t know what to do, so we 3. reinforce the us vs. them mentality and 4. forget about God’s perspective and get really afraid and upset.
I stated above that I believe in preserving America’s heritage. I think where the faith community misses it is by pursuing a noble desire with tainted motivations. Please allow me to qualify this – I grew up in a faith environment with disciplined, virtuous people who studied the Bible. However when they started talking about the hot buttons (politics, abortion, left-wing social activism, evolution, prayer out of the public school, etc…) people really started getting upset, which can in fact be entirely appropriate. I think that a lot of the media coverage of “Religious Right” activities in the 80’s captured this perception and broadcast it to the world, making Christians look angry and mean.
In my experience, I witnessed too much of this to completely discredit people’s negative reaction. When AIDS came out, I didn’t see many people praying about it; instead we stated it was God’s judgment against homosexuals. I don’t remember praying for president Clinton much, and when he lied under oath about his “indiscretions” many of us gleefully tuned in to the radio talk-show pundits, eagerly awaiting his impeachment. I could list a lot of other stuff but I am depressed already.
It was just for Clinton to be reprimanded for lying about his conduct. No one would deny that AIDS is a consequence of having sex with an infected person (although many believe that “protected sex” will always protect them), and it may be accurate though not easy to label it a “judgment”. When we stop at “God’s judgment” people don’t hear the redemptive side, that God wants to reconcile us vertically & horizontally.
If I had AIDS, I might well realize and regret what I did and perhaps want to repent, but hearing that this is “God’s judgment” against me, I might think God hates me and won’t ever forgive me. The intended communication is “we are all responsible for our sins, but Jesus has paid this penalty on our behalf, if we will allow Him to change our thinking and behavior”. If we say and do things outside of a truth-in-love motivation, the enemy can take advantage of it.
As I said in an earlier blog, the media thrives on broadcasting the worst of behavior, so it is tough to win a positive spin. They rarely catch us doing the right things, unless it is in the realm of social action. I’m glad more Christians are getting caught feeding the hungry and building homes and doing Tsunami relief. I hope we will try to turn other perceptions around one-on-one, outside of the media zone.
We have a lot of ground to cover. God is after individual people and has called us to be reconcilers. He guides us by his spirit as well. Below is an additional strategy that I have found to be effective.
Try This At Home
What I propose might work better is 1. ask the disenfranchised objector to tell you why they feel the way they do, and 2. try to find out what happened in their life (divorced parents, bullying, religious hypocrisy, moral failures, and broken trust are a few) to cause their disenfranchisement. Then you [gasp] 3. express sincere sadness over these events and in qualifying cases (such as any religious issue) 4. become an agent of reconciliation (“I understand how you feel about religious people being a bunch of hypocrites. I’ve gotten a lot of flak from them too, but Jesus isn’t like that. I go to church myself, so it really hurts to know that we [the religious community] could have hurt you in that way.”)
When people experience this kind of sincere empathy they are now more aware that you might actually care about them. You might now have a choice to do several things, among them 1. keep on talking about Jesus’ love (or whatever else you sense God might want you to communicate, 2. go back to talking about America’s moral heritage, or 3. something else.
Or perhaps the person was so mad that he or she spat in your face or assaulted you verbally or something in the previous paragraph. If this is what happened, you have been persecuted for righteousness. Congratulations. Rejoice, etc… but make sure to forgive the person and pray for them & that God sends somebody else to love on them.
You may have objected to this notion of assuming other people’s mistakes as some sort of hypocrisy in itself, or that the other person should have to first repent before experiencing reconciliation with their church issues. You may be right and that may well have been how it worked for you. I would rather risk this than to watch an opportunity to offer God’s love to somebody via an apology for something an affiliated person may have done to them. Heck, their perception may have been totally wrong as well, but I want to take the opportunity to bring Jesus into the situation.