Increasingly, in the Western world, the Christian voice is not a welcome one in the marketplace of ideas.
This video (which my friend Cameron sent my way) unpacks this quite well, focusing on the debate around same-sex marriage; it’s almost as if the moral worldviews of secularism and Christianity are now so far apart that it’s impossible to do anything except talk past one another.
To put it simply, we’re living in a post-Christian culture.
That in mind, the de-registration of Family First as a charity this week got me thinking.
Not thinking so much about whether it was fair or not. As long as the law is applied consistently, I don’t feel it’s outrageous that a political lobby group shouldn’t have charitable status. Besides, to be honest, while I respect the fact that Family First does represent a healthy chunk of Christians on many issues, I’ve generally found their approach a bit shrill for my liking.
No, what I’ve been thinking about is how Jesus would have us Christians respond to our shrinking influence and political capital.
I reckon that too often, at least in New Zealand, our response to getting shut out of public debate is far too crusading, affronted, and even hysterical. I don’t think we’re known for a posture of humility, and it’s often our loudest and brashest voices which are the ones that get heard. For example, do a Google image search for Christians in New Zealand Politics. Is there enough grace to go along with the truth among the common faces and images which pop up?
I don’t think so.
I’m not suggesting Christians give up on public discourse, but I am suggesting we inject a little more Romans 12 into the way we respond to our declining influence.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This isn’t just important for Christian politicians, I think it’s important for all of us that interact in any way with people who find our beliefs objectionable: our workmates, our friends, even other family members. We need to think twice before going into combat mode. We need to think thrice before posting that status update.
Sometimes, it can seem that we Christians believe a louder, more strident voice equals deeper conviction and belief.
But I wonder if the opposite is true. I wonder if a humble and contrite approach actually shows that we have a firmer faith in the One who reigns as God and King, regardless of the way things might look in the here and now.