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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Charges Against Christians

There are many names thrown at modern-day Christians but there are a select few that seem to be more common than the rest and seem to stick unusually well. Unfortunately, I have to admit that we have all too often earned them.

"Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay" says David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group and author of UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity. He continues, "What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves 'Christians' because of the baggage that accompanies the label." So let me address these charges from former to latter.

Of being anti-gay, I believe the church has sorely mishandled this issue. I have never understood why we treat homosexuality (inside or outside the church) as any different than any other sexual sin (adultery, premarital sex, etc.). They are all the same in the eyes of God. As Paul said, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?" Yet we have flipped them around, trying to change the lifestyle (of an outsider) before changing the heart (and bringing them within the church). Up until that point, we need to love them and witness to them in word and deed (just like every other lost person). If and when a conversion takes place, then the issue of homosexuality can be approached in a sensitive but uncompromising biblical approach with the assistance of the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Public policy is another matter and one I have addressed in a previous blog (see below).

To the charge of being hypocritical, I think most people use this word quite poorly. A hypocrite is one who professes beliefs of one sort but privately (or not so privately) practices the opposite without any attempt at change. For instance, no one would call a recovering alcoholic who disapproves of (and discourages others away from) alcoholism a hypocrite for having a momentary relapse. In the same way, Christians who discourage others away from and disapprove of a vice or sin but slip up and fall in that area don't quite fit the definition of hypocrite. The key is in the fight, the struggle, the effort to overcome. When the sin or vice becomes habitual, accepted or even celebrated then one crosses into hypocrisy. Unfortunately, there have been some very high-profile Christians who have been guilty of just that.

Addressing judgmentalism, I feel I've already said a bit. To the Christians, why are we judging those outside the church? To the rest, are we really guilty of as much hypocrisy as we're accused of? If we as Christians are to come under fire and garner a negative image , it should at least be for the right (and righteous) reasons. As Jesus said, "No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also." This is not golden ticket to interpret every bit of "persecution" as a sign you are doing the will of Jesus, only a proper understanding of Scripture will prove that in the end. Instead, too often we see a superficial "religion" in the guise of Christianity used to promote a person's bigotry, hatred, and self-righteousness. I don't expect John and Jane Doe to know the Bible well enough to see the duplicitousness of these individuals, so the burden falls on the true believers to live in a way that is lovingly and gracefully biblical and thereby reveal the disparity between the two. Only then will we be able to wear the label of "Christian" without being afraid of the stigma attached and knuckleheads who brought it upon us.

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