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UnChristian 07 TOO POLITICAL

Kinnaman & Lyons open the chapter with a great hook, they ask you and I to answer a simple question: If you hear the phrase Chicago Bulls, whom or what do you think of? What about Scientology? Islam?…who do the 16-29 year olds think of when they hear Christianity? The top five leaders named by ‘outsiders’ in order of most named were the Pope, George W. Bush, Jesus, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King Jr.. The top five leaders named by churchgoers were Billy Graham, the Pope, George W. Bush, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus. Surprised to see Jesus name so low down on the Christians list, are you surprised to see Bush’s name so high up on the outsiders list, I was. According to K & L Mosaics and Busters “think of usas motivated primarily by political goals and as promoting a right-wing agenda.” It may surprise you but not only do two-thirds of outsiders say we’re too involved in politics but have of young Christians agree.

K & L’s goals are not to encourage Christians to not be vocal and visible in the political arena, but rather “Our lives should reflect Jesus, which includes not just how we vote, but every element of our political engagement – our conversations about politics as well as our attitudes about ideological opponents.” Are you still having a hard time getting a visual picture on people’s impression of politics and the Christian faith? Here’s a graph that represents the percentage of people who believe conservative Christians are a “major” or “minor” problem facing America today;

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Perhaps you’re saying to yourself couldn’t any group be labeled “too political”, of course and that is a fair response to make. But, K & L’s point in sharing this research with us isn’t to make us feel cornered but rather to make us aware that outsiders are keen to political expressions of faith and we out to be doing our best to represent Christ to them in light of that. Many of us watch the elections and see the red/blue state wars, and like the graph about just see broad points, but K & L suggest that we need to come to terms with the complexity of the political arena. One of the ways they address that complexity is by demonstrated that is by looking at the percentage of registered voters, what they call the “Four Faith Slices of the Voting Population.”

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Evangelical Christians only represent 9% of the voting block, whereas the largest percentage of the voting block is taken up by Nonevangelical born-again Christians at 38%; other self-identified Christians mark in at 29%; and then those outside Christianity make up 24%. Perhaps your wondering what the Barna Group classifies as evangelical and nonevangelical? To be an evangelical “one first must be born-again, which means they have made a confession of sin and profess faith in Christ; and secondly, those born-again believers who believe the Bible is accurate in the principles it teaches, who veiw God as all-powerful and perfect and involved in the world today, who contend that Jesus did not sin, who assert that Satan is a real spiritual being, who reject that heaven can be earned through good works, who believe Christians have a responsiblity to share their faith with others, and who say their religious faith is very important in their life.”

K & L say don’t run too quickly to the conclusion that each slice of this faith pie will fall into a red or blue, sometimes the slice fragements even more which is good news for politically active Christians. Simply put outsiders are not always voting against the right or the left… Worldview has a lot of influence in the voting game, but having a biblical worldview isn’t enough say K & L, today’s Christian has to take it a step further; “Even if we are speaking from the context of a biblical worldview, many will not interpret our comments from that same perspective. So it is incumbent on us to present things clearly, creatively, and without cliches.” It is more important than ever that we enter this presentation of the biblical worldview in the political arena, the climate has changed today and its incumbent upon us to speak. How has the climate changed you ask, what are some indicators of change?

  • Mosaics and Busters express much less traditional political and social views on many issues than did their parents at the same age.
  • Young people, particularly Mosaics, are driven by pragmatism, a do-what-works mentality.
  • Mosaics are more skeptical than any previous generation of the role of the Bible in public life. (Percentage of people that believe the bible and not the will of the people should drive the laws of our country: 18-29 year olds only 22% say the bible; 30-49 year olds only 33% say the bible; 50-64 year olds only 32% say the bible; and over 64 only 44% say the bible)
  • Young adults are less likely to support a “Christianized” country.
  • Young adults are embracing a worldview at odds with Scripture.
  • Young adults are less likely than preceding generations to start their political explorations as Republicans.

There are plenty of outsiders who just want Christians to stay out of politics because their Christians and have a different worldview but K & L say its not just this; they say its the churches method and attitude that are expressed in her political activity that can and does turn outsiders away from Christ. K & L suggest that the call for the conservative Christian community today is to turn their unChristian witness into a Christlike one, and they offer five comparisons of how this could work itself out;

  1. UnChristian: Christians rely too heavily on political influence. Christlike: We are cautious not to place too much emphasis on politics.
  2. UnChristian: Christians get enamored with politics. Christlike: There is nothing gained by winning elections if we lose our soul in the process.
  3. UnChristian: Christians drown out and demonize the voices of others. Christlike: Respect our enemies and be aware of our capacity for myopia.
  4. UnChristian: Christians do not respect leaders whose political viewpoint is different from their own. Christlike: Respect and listen to our leaders and pray for them.
  5. UnChristian: Christians are hypocrites when it comes to politics. Christlike: In trying to solve problems in society, be vigilant about our on capacity for hypocrisy.

In a world where Christians are too easily percieved as too political the change they should be seeking to bring comes not by critiquing unbelieving culture around them, but rather through “Critique by creating.” K & L close the chapter off with a few pastors, leaders, political voices, etc.; they are: Brian McLaren; Chuck Colson; Mark Batterson; Tri Robinson; Mark Rodgers; Jim Wallis; and Rev. Jannah Scott.

Further Thoughts:

This chapter was informative but a little general in its answers and assessment. One of the interesting things at least to me was their Four Faith Slices, and the way they defined evangelicalism in very broad and uncreedal terms. Terms such as Evangelical, Born-Again, and Non-Evangelical could have been defined in a lot firmer categories; here I think their work would have been improved if they wrestled a bit with George Marsden’s works on Fundamentalism; or Ian Murray’s works on Evangelicalism; or even Alister McGrath’s labors…all and all it seemed that the theological analysis side of their study came off very general.

But this could easily be me imputing to them a genre or discourse level that ‘I would want’ but not one that they would necessarily work out from to make an impact.  I think most people will read this chapter and kind of just go, “well yeah, of course.” And leave less helped than they could have been. I’m going to make a suggestion, hold to your hats – they would have greatly benefited in their research if they would have raise the post-colonial context of the evangelical community and what challenges and benefits globalism offers today.