Monday, March 29, 2010

Christian Witness

A friend sent me a youtube clip of Gabe Lyons being interviewed about his book Unchristian. I think I'd like the lad. His premise is that nonChristians in his generation have negative images of Christians that interferes with their even consider the claims of Christ.

Favorite topic of mine. The immediate conclusion everyone draws, without it going through their logical processes, is that the kids are right, and Christians should stop doing all this dumb stuff and start acting like Christians, and more people would believe in Jesus.

I haven't seen any evidence for that in my Christian lifetime. I have been in places where the Christians are annoying, rigid, and hypocritical, and in places where they are meek, winsome, and sincere - and of course the wide variety of in-betweens and combinations. I have known Christians who were giants of generosity and kindness who had no visible effect on those around them. I don't say it never has any effect, for conversion stories are full of descriptions of inspiring figures who maintained their faith under pressure and caused others to think. We should certainly guard our behavior as if it all depended on our character.

But it doesn't. It's 90% sales job against us, and the young are particularly susceptible to adopting attitudes around them. We swim against a great tide, and all we can hope is to rescue a few.

Politically liberal Christians like to believe this myth because they want more space for their politics in the national conversation. Evangelical die-hards like the myth because it tells them if everyone just behaved better all would go right. Nonbelievers like to have someone else to blame for their unbelief. Mainstreamers, groups raising money, fundamentalists, church drop-outs, cultists, preachers inspiring the faithful, church planters - absolutely everyone has a reason why this myth tickles their ears. We want it to be true.

Doesn't make it true.


james said...

I seem to recall some warning from the Founder that the welcome wasn't generally going to be wonderful--that we'd get the same sort of reception He did.
Not peace, but division...

Not that that's any excuse for my failures to be light in the world.

terri said...

I don't think it is necessarily a "myth"...but more a view from an angled perspective born out of the large emphasis placed on the "life-changing" transformation that Evangelical Christianity promotes.

When the pitch line for conversion promises that being a Christian will solve your problems, give you peace, and make you a better person....there is going to be some disillusionment when all of those things don't happen, or happen so slowly that the change is imperceptible to most people.

I do agree that people will find reasons to believe, or not believe, which are completely separate from the personalities around them. Sometimes the failings of others simply underscore the reasons they already have assembled in their minds.

lelia said...

My father has a 78 year old grudge against Christians, which is one of the reasons he told me he is not a Christian. When he was six, the eight year old pastor's son incited him to join in stealing some candy bars. They were caught, sent to jail, and their fathers had to pick them up. His dad called him jailbird for a number of years. He has never forgiven the PK for that.

Der Hahn said...

I don't see that the problem is so much that an a-ha moment doesn't produce profound change in an instant but the internal dialog behind AVI's statement is something like

[If] Christians [w]ould stop doing all this dumb stuff and start acting like I think Christians should act, [then I] would [be more comfortable around Christians].

Micha Elyi said...

"Nonbelievers like to have someone else to blame for their unbelief."

So true. This explains why there are so few atheists who - to dip into psychobabble - "own" the nonbelief that they profess. Only the rare atheist takes full personal responsibility for ones own choice to maintain nonbelief.