In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:19
The secularization of America:
This morning I’m thinking about an idea that is nowhere near original, yet has been so misunderstood and poorly presented that it needs to be completely reimagined (restated, reexplained, repurposed) and re-launched.
What I’m talking about is the direct, connect-the-dots, correlation between unbelief and societal disintegration. But I’m not talking about stereotypical “immorality” so much as the disturbingly contentious and divisive social/political climate that has come to define this era.
To be clear, I promote neither Moral Majority views nor 21st-Century neo-evangelicalism; fact is the agenda of the religious right has only served to exacerbate the gaping social divide. Instead I want to draw attention to the redemptive and moderating value of the historical role traditional “main-line” churches have played in knitting communities together and uniting people under the banner of common decency, tolerance, and a shared desire to live together in mutual respect and peace.
The solution is not in judgment but via grace and forbearance:
In other words, a huge part of the solution when it comes to the angry, fragmented, hostile tone of much of American public life today is simply this: embracing the moderation, the tolerance, the acceptance, the diversity, and the devotion to community that has historically defined the mission of the traditional main-line church.
The Church must adopt a leadership role as a model for community life. Sadly, instead, Christianity is more widely understood as a collection of factions based on the same quality of “I’m right, you’re wrong” foolishness that has overrun American politics like a plague.
To the extent that sexism, homophobia, intolerance, the legislation of “morality”, and cherry-picking select “biblical truths” have built fences and dug moats around worshiping communities, some of the loudest voices have abrogated Christianity’s responsibility to promote the model of community our nation so desperately needs to embrace.
Talk about a mission opportunity! Maybe the most important missional imperative The Church must adopt should be that of leading America out of factionalism and division?
My Word to the un-Churched:
Please come. As Christian churches we are significantly weakened to the extent that we hone our exclusiveness. Simply put, we seriously need – under the umbrella of faith – to be more diverse.
So here I go again with the idea of invitation! If you do not attend church (that would include more than 50% of the North American population) please consider this suggestion: Start going. Even if you don’t necessarily believe in God, or Jesus. Make it your practice to attend a “traditional main-line church” just like your forebears did who maybe weren’t that caught up in belief.
Just come, and come on a regular basis. Believer or not; whatever your ethnic or cultural background happens to be; single, married, divorced, widowed; young, not so young; regardless of your identification (straight, LBGTQI, unsure…); Democrat, Republican, Independent, Angry…; open to Jesus or just open to other people; consider yourself a “good” person or well-aware of your flaws….
Here is what I believe will happen:
- If we all take our focus off our own exclusive rightness and begin to look around at who we (all) are then we will (all) have taken a step forward.
- The more we learn to appreciate one another then the more we will have actually been in the presence of God.
- The Church will once again become a leader in reconciliation, not factionalism.
- This nation will experience social – and spiritual – healing.
- Some of you will take the step to become followers of Jesus.
- All of us will grow in spirit and in truth.
If this happens all over America, and being part of a faith-based community becomes the norm for the majority of Americans, then I am convinced our national mood will improve and we will learn to work together for the common good – just as the founders intended when this sometimes fragile experiment in democracy was first conceived.
I am no idealist!
I am not an idealist, but I am a forgiven child of God. It is because of that I have hope that the grace, mercy, light, love, and promise of Jesus will always find a way.
In love, and because of love – DEREK