…a people who love unconditionally, who serve humbly, who give sacrificially, who invite graciously, and who welcome indiscriminately.
This morning, for some reason, I found myself thinking about a rally I attended in 1971 when I was 15-years old. It was called the National Festival of Light, and it was advertised as a Christian initiative designed to draw attention to “moral decline” in the UK. We gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square and – along with an estimated 45,000-100,000 participants – we marched to Hyde Park for more speeches and a concert.
So I did some additional research, and I read some articles about the people and politics surrounding the event just to confirm my recollections.
My takeaway memory in 1971 was the slogan “moral pollution needs a solution,” and I remember it was the first time my faith had ever been framed in terms of what was wrong with other people; it disturbed me at the time and it disturbs me more now. It was an expression of Christianity defined by what it was against, not who it followed or who God loved.
That strident, harsh, us-versus-them approach is something I have seen expanded and magnified over the years, yet all The Culture Wars seem to have achieved has been alienation, rejection, and mutual hostility. I don’t know a single person who has found Jesus having been told that God hates them and the Church wants the government to pass laws against their lives.
As someone who publishes commentary, I put a lot of thought into my position as a cultural observer. I read widely, I gather news from a broad spectrum of sources (including those with moderate viewpoints, conservative slants, progressive inclinations, and even some with no ideological filter at all).
I believe there are cultural “moments” that come along, times and events that stand as a fulcrum, a pivot point where the balance is on the edge of tipping. Sometimes the effect is nothing more than personal for a few people, and sometimes it is the direction of a nation, or a movement, or a culture that experiences a seismic shift and nothing is the same again.
Usually, pivot points are clearer when we look back; sometimes they are obvious at the time; once in a while – like now – there is the sense that we need one… but we’re not sure what the trigger will be that sets the shift inexorably in motion.
The perception of Christian faith…
We need to see a new cultural moment when it comes to the perception of Christian faith. For a long time – far too long – the loudest message has been moralistic, holier-than-thou, finger-pointing, and bullying; a culture war, pushing hard to impose cherry-picked “biblical standards” on other people and their lives.
They called it The Moral Majority, but I think it was The Moralistic Prejorative.
No wonder Christianity is so often dismissed as irrelevant. “A lot of people think faith is just a proxy for political tribalism,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. I think he is exactly right.
The Real Good News is Invitation!
I believe that the real message of gospel good news is an open invitation. The Jesus I know came – and comes – to this world in order to be The Way, the entry point to reconciliation with God, not to build a moat around grace and guard the door, slamming it in the faces of those the gate-keepers deem unworthy.
For two generations now, the invitational, liberating message of Jesus seems to have been lost to the unchurched and the de-churched because of what comes across as the religious codification of reactionary, nationalistic, chauvinistic, legalistic, bombastic rhetoric.
We need to be re-defined as a people who love unconditionally, who serve humbly, who give sacrificially, who invite graciously, and who welcome indiscriminately.
An Invitation to Come Home:
I believe that, while we are nowhere near perfect, the church I attend is making great strides to be that kind of an invitational, welcoming community.
This could be a Cultural Moment that we’re in right now; this could be the tipping point that the world looks back on in the future and is able to say, “This was when the Gospel of Jesus became accessible to more people rather than less and the Good News caught fire.”
And, if you have never felt welcomed before, this could be your opportunity to come home.