Sunday, June 1, 2008

Are You "unChristian?"

Considering “Unchristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity ...An Why It Matters” Groundbreaking research from the Barna Group by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

Note: This book does not discuss or advocate the emergent church. [I don't find some of the folks mentioned at the end of this clip to be a major selling point for me personally and I don't advocate the emergent church. ;-) ] Following the content of each chapter, the book features statements from a wide variety of Christians in response to the chapter topic.

From page 15:
One outsider from Mississippi made this blunt observation: “Christianity has become bloated with blind followers who would rather repeat slogans than
actually feel true compassion and care. Christianity has become marketed and streamlined into a juggernaut of fearmongering that
has lost its own heart.”
As I read through this book, I could not help but continually think of so many authoritarian zealots in the church today, hoping to reform Christians so that they act in accordance with what their group believes the only accurate and reverent interpretation of the Word of God. I've gleaned much from the suggestions offered in this book, but I also cannot get through more than a few pages without considering how far removed patriocentricity has removed itself from the practice of true Christianity. Given the sales and marketing approach that some camps concern themselves with in order to close their ideological sales, in their efforts to “keep themselves unspotted from the world,” they're becoming increasingly more culturally irrelevant to to what the authors of “unChristian” call the generation of Mosaics.

The authors agree that the “unChristian church” has created many of the situations that have perpetuated the view that so many outside of the Christian faith hold about the church so that we are perceived as unChristian in the first place. As some within the so-called patriarchy movement have borrowed the term “big tent” to describe all Christian homeschoolers, but using adversarial velvet cords of piety and brass posts of their extra-Biblical moral imperatives to rope themselves off from those who fail to meet their approval. Rather than look to the Holy Spirit to use them as salt and light of love to their brethren, they stand in condemnation and disapproval of their own flesh. If they cannot show love and compassion within the Body of Christ, how can they possibly show it to a dying world?

One of my behaviors used to really irritate my husband early on in our marriage, though I think he's learned to tolerate it a little better now that we've weathered many years and many things of greater significance. After reading a book forward and introduction, I will often jump to the back of a non-fiction book to read a little bit from the concluding chapters to find out where it's going. As a very choleric person who is very rule and process oriented, he finds this to be completely improper, against the rules of the universe, for a book is meant to be read in one direction. I, however, have trouble riding an ideological bus without having a very good idea of the destination.

So in keeping with my personality, I've jumped to the back of the book to offer some insights from one of the concluding chapters before jumping into the details:

From page 217:
The idea that our faith can be unChristian is not an easy one to swallow. I realize that some will be distressed by it. Consider an episode from the life of Paul. In 2 Corinthians he wrote about his great trepidation at having to reprimand some of the believers in the city of Corinth. Then, when the Christians responded to his correction in a healthy way, Paul was enthusiastic.

“Isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you've come out of this with purity of heart... My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one who wronged, but for you-- that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God." 2 Corinthians 7:11-12 (Message)

The unChristian faith is distressing. So is our culture. ...I hope our response to this observation is like that of the recipients of Paul's letter. I hope we put aside casual forms of Christianity, piercing the antagonism of our peers with service and sacrifice... The church is not effective when it calls outsiders to live virtuously, which is never really possible apart from regeneration through Christ anyway.

May all Christians take to heart the observations of these researchers so that we may again become salt and light to those who desperately need Jesus can easily recognize the love of Jesus in us and through us.
From “unChristian
by Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007