Generous Orthodoxy  

Friday, October 05, 2007

A challenge for us all

The excellent David Van Biema, religion editor for Time magazine, has a brief article in the October 2 issue--"Christianity's Image Problem." He reports that the Barna polling organization (which is admittedly rather quirky) has ascertained that the image of the Christian church in America has plummeted in just 10 years. The chief accusations against American Christianity today, coming from Christians and non-Christians alike, are "homophobia," "hypocrisy," and "too involved in politics." This last category seems to be directed against the so-called "Christian Right" and its endorsement of candidates based on their views of hot-button issues such as abortion and stem-cell research; most people polled would not have the Civil Rights Movement--for instance--in view, or the anti-torture campaign of our own time. This is indeed unfortunate, and it is part of our calling, in these troubled times, to remind our congregations and Christian friends of these movements of the Spirit.

The Christian Church should never be poll-driven. It is part of our job description that we should be counter-cultural. Yet we want to be counter-cultural for the right reasons. No one can lay a hand on people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Desmond Tutu, or even Billy Graham with all his weakness for Presidents, because of the transparency and integrity of their lives.

The question of homosexuality is not settled. Yet surely it is more important to stand for a radical embrace of all "the ungodly" (Romans 4), including oneself first of all regardless of one's sexuality, than it is to maintain an absolutist stance on the issues that must be rethought in our time, in the sight of God.