Christians Need Some New PR
Some time ago, I started following a few atheist-inspired Facebook groups as well as a couple on Tumblr. I did it for two basic reasons: To listen and to learn.
I wanted to hear what the members of these groups had to say about Christians and Christianity, and I also wanted to learn from what I heard so that as a Christian pastor I can more effectively speak and write about my faith in compelling and winsome ways.
I haven't written much about this directly, but a post I read today really got me thinking about the ways that so many people who are not Christian view those of us who claim to follow Jesus.
It simply read:
"The fact that churches are suing to say open instead of voluntarily doing what's in the best interest of public health tells you everything you need to know about churches and their values."
First of all, let me say that I understand why so many religious leaders and worship attendees (regardless of their faith tradition) are desiring to gather for in-person worship in the midst of this pandemic. I miss gathering with my church. I miss it a lot. I grieve it every week.
I also get that there is a benefit to the mental and spiritual health of those who gather, and for some Christian traditions, gathering means celebrating Holy Communion, which doesn't happen (for their tradition) if it's not in person, and officiated by a priest.
In other words---there are important and valuable reasons why people of faith desire to gather together in their houses of worship in spite of the threat of the coronavirus.
There's a huge disconnect here for a large number of people who are outside of the religious "bubble"---especially when so many other venues are shuttered, and businesses have been forced to close... when schools are having to go back and forth between in-person and virtual-only... all for the sake of public health and the common good...
Then these same people witness Christians ultimately taking their case to have a whole different set of rules and guidelines for their religious gatherings all the way to the Supreme Court... and win.
This is a difficult issue, to be fair. But in the end, what I take away from this is simply this:
As Christians, we have a serious messaging problem.
In so many of the ways we practice our faith in the public sphere, we do so with a pretty myopic and narrow view of who is listening, who is paying attention. And trust me, there are lots of wary eyes upon us right now.
It's time that we started asking some hard questions like:
"Who isn't here with us, and why?"
"What is the message that we are really conveying?"
It's time for those of us who make up the Church to take a long look at our own lives, our speech, our social media posts, our actions or inactions, and indeed all of the ways that declare ourselves to be Christian and measure all of it against the example of Christ himself...
Christ... who spoke more kindly, gently, and mercifully to those who were on the outside of the religious circles of his day than he did to those who were supposedly in them.
May this be food for thought for all of us today and every day forward. May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.