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.
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