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"unChristian" Christianity: Too Political
by Tom Goodman
March 20, 2008

In David Kinnaman's new book, unchristian, the president of the Barna research firm reported on an extensive study of the attitudes that unchurched 16- to 29-year-olds have of the Christian faith.  The book focuses on six complaints that unchurched young people have regarded Christians.  They see us as--

We've already looked at the first four subjects.  This week, let's see why those now entering adulthood think we're too political.

Three quarters of young outsiders and half of young churchgoers describe present-day Christianity as "too involved in politics." Nearly two-thirds of Mosaic and Buster outsiders and nearly half of young born-again Christians said they perceive "the political efforts of conservative Christians" to be a problem facing America.  Kinnaman added:

In our exploration of this subject, we also discovered that such concerns are not only the domain of young Mosaics and Busters. One fifth of all American adults (21 percent) believe "the political efforts of conservative Christians" are a major problem facing the country today. Half of the adult population (48 percent) describes the political involvement of Christians as a concern.

If you have a hard time imagining how tying politics and religion together can create a problem, I have two words for you: Jeremiah Wright.  Of course, Obama's problems with his pastor of 20 years also remind us that the "too political" label doesn't just belong on evangelicals.

Focus on the Family's "CitizenLink" interviewed Kinnaman on this complaint from young people that Christianity is "too involved in politics." They said,
Here's the tension, the balance, the main question, especially for folks who read our e-mail. Obviously, there are issues we as Christians need to fight for: one-man, one-woman marriage; the sanctity of life, etc. etc. God's design on these issues is clear, but can we do it without falling into these stereotypes? Because you're not advocating in the least that we back off biblical stances on issues.

And his answer:
Even though the Gospel may not be popular to everyone, it does not give us the excuse to be offensive in that process. We don't have to be a jerk in order to stand for righteousness.

We need to be willing to have very frank and open conversations with people who are not Christians. And while we want to hold fast to biblical truths, we need to learn from people about why they've come to the conclusions that they've come to. So that even if we disagree with them, we haven't simply come to them trying to convince them of our views. We may have a time and a place for that, but my take from the data is that we're far too often in the position of trying to convince everybody we're right than trying to understand why people might disagree with us — particularly people who are not Christians.

We have to ask ourselves, How do I go about these conversations with my neighbors? Am I feisty? Am I polarizing? Am I an "expert"? Am I arrogant about it? Or do I have an attitude like Jesus did, which was not willing to compromise, but willing to have conversations with people and willing to learn, and willing in many ways to point to deep matters of the heart that reflect what people are really after.

Not that we are, again, submitting our biblical ideals to a popular vote, but we're asking the Holy Spirit to give us insights into how to apply these crucial biblical truths to a very changing and dynamic culture. Jesus Himself said that He was here to do good to the world; He was here not to condemn the world but to save it. So when we're known as all of these things in sort of a negative light, rather than being relational, compassionate, willing to learn, informed, oriented around solutions to complex problems, those are the postures, those are the activities, the behaviors, the attitudes that Jesus cultivated.

This generation is not after simplistic formulas, moral formulas. They're after a deep, livable worldview that helps them make sense of the world, that helps them be a better person, that helps them do good to their neighbors. And the Gospel has every element of that. It is Good News to the prisoner. It is Good News to the blind. And that is key for us to capture in our hearts and minds.

An important reminder as we move closer to the elections in November.


I've posted this edition of LeaderLines on my weblog, Get Anchored.  I hope you'll go there and leave comments about your reaction to what we're discovering together.

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