No, We're Not a Hate Group
Another explanation for the "Crazy Uncle" Christians in the media.

Following the terrible elementary shooting last month in Connecticut, Michael Cheshire wrote a blog post that attracted a lot of attention. He was incensed by the comments of a number of Christian leaders in the media. He wrote:

After watching an interview by a person speaking for our Christian religion, I was less than blessed. He subtly blamed the gays, iPods, computers, evolution, and the fact that God is not in our schools for the shooting in Connecticut. I was compelled to distance myself from him as quickly as possible. It's a feeling I have had many times over the years when our so-called "religious leaders" make accusatory remarks about entire people groups.

Cheshire was not alone in his outrage and embarrassment. I often feel the same way about those who speak for our faith in the media. It seems that after any calamity, whether human or natural, there are Christian leaders on cable news offering an overly-simplistic, overly-spiritual, and overly-self-righteous explanation for the carnage. Cheshire compared these leaders with a "crazy uncle who makes ignorant comments." They are often wrong and offensive, but they're family.

Michael Cheshire's critique expanded beyond the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary, however. He lamented that American Christianity has become "tainted with a lot of hate and politics." In fact he titled his post, "They Think We're a Hate Group, & They Might Be Right." (This title was written by Cheshire himself and not the editors of Out of Ur.) Again, I resonate a great deal with what he wrote, particularly the general sentiment of frustration over the culture's perception of Christian faith and the Church. So I do not wish for what follows to be interpreted as a counterpoint to Cheshire's post, but rather as another angle from which to perceive what's happening in the American Church.

As I've traveled around the country and interacted with many Christians leaders and organizations, I've been immensely blessed by what I've found. The church in America is not a hate group. Most Christians, including conservative evangelicals, do not wish to see their gay and lesbian neighbors discriminated against. Most do not wish harm to those of other faiths. Most do not believe one political party has a corner on righteousness, and most do not believe we should pursue a theocracy. Through my involvement with projects like This Is Our City, I've seen many Christians serving, working, and sacrificing to bless and transform their communities into oases of justice, beauty, and abundance. Among younger Christians leaders I see even more hope for the cultivation of this common good approach to social engagement and an end to the culture wars and politicalization of the church that began in the 1970s.

January 02, 2013

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments

Mark Gomez

January 08, 2013  11:44am

Oh this is a complicated mess... twisted journalism, over-simplification, lack of discernment on word and statement choices, and of course those terrible mis-representations of God in the public eye. Can we just say out loud that it is likely that some of those "crazy uncles" are not even a part of the family? Their fruit bears them out. Can we just say that folks are just too ready to be in front of the camera when they are not prepared to be in front of the camera? Can we just say, "Let's live out the reality of faith in Christ." and stop wasting time trying to get face time in front of cameras? Smile, show the love and compassion of Christ to all humanity in every form of kindness possible. This will drive them crazy and you will enjoy life a lot more. Over-simplification maybe, but true nonetheless...

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January 07, 2013  10:10am

Any comprehensive formulation of worldview must take into account Biblical authority as well as opinion, media, etc. But let's stop simply exhorting Biblical analysis... let's do it. I wonder if John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and even Jesus would be "crazy uncles' by Micheal's definition.

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Rob Dunbar

January 03, 2013  9:38pm

Umm...jharp? Where did Deb mention anything about ObamaCare and/or abortions? Don't you think maybe you've proven Skye's point?

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January 03, 2013  4:20pm

Skye- I appreciate the insight and reflection. You are correct in that the media sets the message. It's a very interesting fact that they chose who is there to answer the questions they ask. Don- I appreciated your comment as well. Are we guilty of "sound-biting" our leaders? I can't tell you how many times I've been invited into the fray of a heated debate on an issue, but when I spent a few minutes actually watching what was said in it's full context I realized it was much ado about nothing. Sad that as followers of Jesus we often don't even take the time to seek the truth. Far too often it seems we are just looking for another chance to share our own opinions. Sheer- Love the end of your quote about "Where does it say that in the bible?" As always it's a blessing to engage, think, and be changed. May God help us overcome *our* sin...and even ourselves! (1 John 5:3-4)

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January 03, 2013  1:03pm

Skye, "Satan doesn't care which extreme you take, as long as you take one." And in truth, that is what is happening here in the American Church...either extreme Right, or extreme's kind of sad actually that we have come to this, and was easily foreseeable. As much as I would like to agree with Mr. Cheshire, I found much of what he wrote to be fraught with nebulousness, and appeal to common authority without specificity. And really, he is only doing what others have done in the Church before, appeal to common authority with tangential reference to biblical teachings that are not really tied down or defined but left purposefully vague so that others may draw their own conclusions. Leave any nebulous statement of faith hanging in the winds of human frailty long enough and the thing will drift with the wind to each point of the compass. Which is why we need to be more specific in our discussions. "Where does it say that in the bible?" Should be one of our most common, and dare I say over-used responses to nebulous statements about faith, and our responses to faith.

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January 02, 2013  4:01pm

Deb, "We are NOT a hate group. We as believers are supposed to be all about love." Then why do you lie about ObamaCare providing funding for abortions? It seems to me you're more about lying to force your religious beliefs onto others.

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January 02, 2013  3:28pm

Two different perspectives that give us much to think about. Thanks, Michael and Skye. I agree with Don that the question–Why does God allows these tragedies to happen?–is the most difficult one to answer as a Christian, and that any answer one gives is bound to be problematic and, ultimately, unsatisfactory. So I'm willing to cut Pastor Huckabee some slack. I guess I'm wondering why we don't challenge the premise that the question necessarily deserves an answer. "Give an answer that may comfort someone's emotions and someone will (rightly) say, 'But that doesn't explain anything.' Give an answer that addresses someone's rational need for explanation and someone will (rightly) say, 'But that doesn't address our hurts!'" So, why give an answer at all? Hindsight is 20/20, of course. But I think I would have liked to have seen Huckabee or someone else in that position, having been asked that question on TV, simply struggle for a few minutes trying to find the right words, and then confess: "I just don't know." I think it is significant that in the book of Job, which deals most directly with this question, Job never receives an answer for why he suffered as he did. He never finds out the reason. God gives him now answer. What he does give Job is an overwhelming, unmistakeable sense of his presence. What if the Christian response to this tragedy that was seen by most of the world was not a man struggling for the right answer under the bright lights of national television, but rather, the silent yet unmistakeable presence of the Christian community right there in Connecticut, grieving with them as they bury their dead?

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January 02, 2013  2:56pm

I'll note here that people like Fred are instrumental in informing me that there are people in the evangelical community who AREN'T part of that intolerance.

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January 02, 2013  2:20pm

I appreciate your piece and think that there is a lot of truth here. I also loved Michael's piece and think that you all are saying similar things. I know that Michael's article started a conversation among my network of pastors in our city and made us really think about how we were being perceived by the lost in our city. I think that we all need to be more active about speaking our beliefs in the media as you and Michael have done. Thank you for keeping the conversation alive as the other article was a great conversation starter with many unbelievers I'm friends with. As you have pointed out, many Christians are not hateful. My group of friends are not the hateful group that the media depicts, however perception is reality to a lost world who don't hear anything else, and without more people like you two speaking up our message will be drowned out. Keep standing up to our crazy uncles and speaking for the true Gospel. -Charlie

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January 02, 2013  12:46pm

I agree! We are NOT a hate group. We as believers are supposed to be all about love. Yet, we don't hear that much about what the "love groups" have done in the media. We only hear about the hate groups. This is satan at his worst. He's doing his best to destroy God's love in the minds of the world. However, not only does he lose in the end... but as we stand more and more as the Body of Christ and live and show God's love to the world, (which we have a responsibility to do), we're going to hear more of what God is doing in the media. I truly believe that. Too many people are quick to blame God for all the bad stuff that happens. It's built in us to want someone to blame. However, many simply don't know who REALLY IS behind all of it. If we don't teach them, how will they know? We have a responsibility to stand up stronger and represent God here on this earth! It may not be "politically correct", but it will be Biblicially correct! He is the one we answer to!

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