Sunday, December 04, 2005

Enough is Enough

Ok. I’m a Christian. Been one for a few decades now. Been on staff as a youth pastor for a number of years. From there I moved to Kansas City to serve in our denominational headquarters. I’ve been a published author in the Christian world. I’ve had articles published, curriculum published, even books. Four years ago I was asked to leave my position in our denomination’s headquarters structure to oversee the formation of a new youth ministry publishing company for the Nazarene Publishing House, Barefoot Ministries.

It’s been a great ride, but unfortunately, all that work in the Christian church world has done one thing to my personality. It’s made me safe. At one time in my life I spent a lot of time giving people a piece of my mind. I didn’t give a rip if people thought I was right or wrong. What did it matter anyway? I knew I was right, and that’s all that mattered. As you can imagine, I’ve managed to hack a few people off over the years. Realistically, at one time in my life I was a real jerk. That’s a part of my personality that I’ve worked hard to change, to keep in check and to allow God to work on. For the last fifteen years or so, I have calmed down significantly. While I do have my occasional flare, I usually manage to not explode in the public sector like I used to. And I really try to keep the collateral damage of destroying people along the way in check.

But I’ve recently begun to wonder if I really need to keep my mouth shut as I’ve learned to do after all. I was born with the personality I have, given it by a creative, brilliant God who knew me before I even existed, and knew the kind of person I would become. He endowed me with the fiery personality I have had from the beginning, the personality that I feel like I’ve abandoned rather than shaped.

To be quite honest, there are things about modern, North American Christianity that I really just don’t like, but I’ve stopped spouting about it. Regarding North American Christianity, there are times, in fact, that I just don’t even want to identify myself as being “Christian.” Yeah, you read it right. I don’t want to be Christian a lot of the time. Before you judge me let me explain what I mean. What I mean to say is that I don’t want to be identified by what modern, North American Christianity has been defined as. In many ways Christianity has been defined as being a narrow-minded, uncompassionate, political movement that wields much power, and condemns many a sinner to hell. Sure, many Christians like to spout the adage that they “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Unfortunately, that often becomes an excuse to degrade others in the name of Christ. Modern Christianity has become more of a white collar country club than the healing, forgiving, compassionate love monster Jesus always intended the Body of Christ to be. A lot of Christians reading this right now just got their dander up and are now ready to brand me a heretic. Sorry if I’ve offended you, but I think it’s time we faced facts.

Don’t get me wrong. There are Christian congregations and organizations that are doing exactly what Christ called them to do. But unfortunately, they are in the minority. For example, our company’s facility is located in an area of Kansas City that has seen better days. We have hookers that work right on the corner of our main building. This last summer I personally was almost caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting between rival gangs on my way back to the office from a meeting I had attended. We are smack in the middle of the hood. Our facility is also sandwiched between two fantastic ministries: The Kansas City Urban Youth Center and St. Mary’s Daycare Center. Both organizations do an incredible job of reaching out to the lonely, the lost, and the outcast people of the world in a variety of ways. They reach out to those whom the world does not esteem. They are truly the body of Christ to the people they minister to. And I am proud that our company has fantastic relationships with both organizations and that we try to do all we can to support their worthy ministries, either through our employees volunteering their time, financial assistance to them, or other means of support. These are the kind of organizations whose causes we should be championing! But you never see their humble work getting headlines and overwhelming support.

Then this last week I heard that many Christian organizations are calling for boycotts on companies who have used “Happy Holidays” as a greeting in their marketing, or have asked their employees to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” This last week I heard no less than three different radio shows that devoted their entire time slots to this subject. It’s not just on the Christian radio shows, but it’s being heard on the conservative radio shows such as that of Bill O’Reilly and Shawn Hannity. Groups like Focus on the Family and the American Family Association are calling for the boycott of Target Stores, or any others who say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.”

My question is, why are we devoting such energy to rallying the troops around something so ridiculous as this? And don’t give me the line “they’re trying to take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christmas’” routine. So what if they do! Let them. They are secular companies. While they hopefully have Christians working in their organizations, the companies themselves aren’t Christian. If it was a church or a church ministry that was calling it’s people to say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” then I might understand this. But why are we politicizing and focusing on this so much? It really isn’t a worth it. If the leaders calling for the boycotts spent the same amount of energy calling Christians to actually go out and feed the hungry, seek the lost, and healing the dying world they live in rather than turning such mole hills into mountains, then this Earth would truly be a better place.

So what if there is an agenda behind it? Call it a conspiracy if you want to. What if they are trying to subversively wipe out Christianity by systematically removing anything religious from the public sector? If the Church in North America was actually doing what the Church is called to do, then it would mean nothing at all. Let the secular companies do what they want. They will never wipe our Christianity, or Christ, or God. Remember Ancient Rome? Rome tried to squash Christianity. The Romans were pretty blatant about their intentions. They failed. The growth of Christianity exploded in Rome, and it eventually became the capital of the Catholic Church. What about modern-day China. It is following the same pattern as that of Ancient Rome, and the Church is growing exponentially in that country.

I say enough of turning Christianity into a political and economic movement. If we ever want the chance to sway the opinions of the far-left liberals into calling on Christ to be their Savior, it won’t happen because we beat them over the head with a mandated morality that doesn’t align with the values they currently live by. It will happen because we love them unconditionally, where they are, as they are. Beating the secular world up with economic boycotts only serves to drive a wedge deeper between the Church and the secular world.

Enough is enough! Be the Church, not a political party!


At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Matt Slawson said...

I am a little late on the commenet as I just found your it by the way.
I really enjoy when you wrote:

" Modern Christianity has become more of a white collar country club than the healing, forgiving, compassionate love monster Jesus always intended the Body of Christ to be. A lot of Christians reading this right now just got their dander up and are now ready to brand me a heretic. Sorry if I’ve offended you, but I think it’s time we faced facts."

I wonder, maybe is it time to move to "post-modern" Christianity? I dont have the answer, but I definately agree that this white collar country club, has more than missed the mark, and agree that the church needs to be THE CHURCH and not a political party.

I know i just basically restated the post, but I love it...think about the post-modern Christianity though...

At 5:59 AM, Blogger zimmerzblogz said...

Boycotts are not the answer in the instances you described. Whether it be Disney or simply buying a Cke it is the Lord's money and we should seek Him first and His righteousness rather than being swayed by theocratic zealots! We live in a land, even still, of great religious freedom and God gives us His Spirit to discern, why do we listen to the calls for boycott when we should concentrate on loving our neighbor? Good thoughts Jeff, and don't be so concerned about being "safe." I'd like to see less safety myself.


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