Christians, We Are Doing a Bad Job of Living Our Faith, But We Can do Better — The Texas Horn
When I agreed to lead the Texas effort for Principles First last Spring, I started reaching out to supporters across the state. During these one-on-one conversations I was surprised to find a major theological undertone. There was a common theme among folks inside and outside fundamentalist Christian culture who found a place in our principled conservative movement. Namely, they are tired of folks using Christianity to achieve political and culture war ends, cheapening the faith.
This feeling is not unique to Principles First supporters, but politicians boiling the Gospel down to a pre-conceived set of political talking points is a significant driver for folks who join us. Christians of many traditions are disappointed in the political direction their churches took recently, but flat-out unnerved by the people they trusted in their faith life using the Word of God to justify a nationalist isolationist movement where the state codifies what is culturally appropriate.
The earnest question of whether pastors and fellow parishioners were blowing smoke about the nature of Jesus’ love our entire lives causes many to question their faith and try to sort out cultural preferences from the true Word. Some supporters of ours have moved denominations or left the church altogether.
There is a long history of the universal Church bending the Word of God for worldly motives. Only a few generations ago our Christian ancestors justified slavery by pointing to the Bible. Recently, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) used an official statement to illustrate that she left the Catholic Church because it conflicted with some of her more adamant political positions, such as on immigration. Empires were built, wars fought, and scandals covered up in the name of God. But this is not just a Christian problem.
It is the nature of the power-hungry to co-opt religion to seek and maintain power. David Brooks wrote about this phenomenon, showing how bad actors consolidate power by setting up a fight between “good normal people” and everyone else, who are painted as morally decadent. In America, the culture war rages along these lines. Many churches are happy to play along in hopes of gaining followers, but what results is today’s divisive political reality and empty church pews.
The God of all things certainly does not require such a defense. The God we talk about is bigger than the latest culture war issues and does not need us for protection. However, knowing who God is and the good news of Jesus Christ does make us want to share the Good News. The operative question for Christians, then, is how to best share the Gospel.
One of my favorite hymns might hold the answer. “ They Will Know We Are Christians by our Love,” has the prescription right in the title. In the age of everyone questioning everyone else’s motives, the only effective way to communicate to those outside our immediate circles is living our values and the number one Christian value is love.
Jesus explains clearly in Matthew 22:36–40 that loving God and loving your neighbor are the two commandments the rest of the Word rests on. So, the marching order for Christians is to live those out. The message some are receiving from the Church, however, is one of hate, even if we do not intend it to be so. They are hearing some don’t belong because of who they are. They are hearing a call to join a culture army rather than communion with Christ. They are hearing a political advertisement rather than the Good News.
Folk wisdom highlights an important aspect of this prescription: “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” The love of God is sweeter than honey, and those who proclaim it boldly are far more convincing in the long run than those who shout damnation. One of the primary reasons the early Christian population multiplied several fold was the compelling story of the loving God of grace which Jesus Christ embodied in the flesh told by those adjacent to Christ himself.
Certainly, we Christians should not shrink from public service. We should embrace opportunities to serve our neighbors and our communities. However, it’s of paramount importance we strive to enter this domain by living our Christian values, not demanding them from others. Backing into theology to support an ideology will only continue to drive folks away from politics and church alike. If we are doing it right, they will know we are Christians by our love- and they might even join us.
Pitcock, a US Marine Corps Reserve officer and Texas state chair of the principled conservative organization, Principles First, is the husband of a Presbyterian pastor and small business owner in Texas. Find him on Twitter @jlouispitcock
Originally published at https://thetexashorn.com on September 18, 2022.