Friday, January 11, 2008

They Like Jesus, But Not The Church

"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ."--Mahatma Ghandi

They Like Jesus, But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, by Dan Kimball, fearlessly explores the current and emerging landscape of American culture: how these generations are changing, how they view the American church, and how the Church can respond.

Kimball graciously deconstructs the confines of the christian subculture, clearly conveys the most prevalent perceptions found among the young unchurched American population regarding Jesus and the church, and provides practical and loving ways for the church to reach out to a generation hungering for Jesus.

Kimball examines the six perceptions of the church most commonly found among 18-30 years-old people, to which Kimball concludes the church needs to offer both an apology and an apologetic. To some of the claims that are valid, let's apologize and to the claims that are misunderstood, let's put out and live out an apologetic. Much like the early church did when the culture at large thought Christians were incestuous atheists that engaged in cannibalism. The church began explaining their beliefs (apologetics), so these misunderstandings could be cleared up.

Here are the top six current perceptions Kimball takes on in his book:

1. The church is an organized religion with a political agenda

2. The church is judgmental and negative

3. The church is dominated by males and oppresses females

4. The church is homophobic

5. The church arrogantly claims all other religions are wrong

6. The church is full of fundamentalists, who take the entire bible literally

Just to be clear, Kimball DOES NOT advocate altering our beliefs to become more attractive to the outside world. This book is more about being able to communicate with people outside the church, demonstrate love, respect, and kindness to them, and maybe even consider some of their criticisms that may be valid. Are there behaviors of the church that are inconsistent with the teachings and example of Jesus? Well, of course there is, because the church is made up of people, and we are a flawed bunch. That's the beauty of having a Savior. It's like Tony Campolo jokes:

"The Church is the Light of the World and like all lights, it attracts bugs. You're a bug. I'm a bug. We're all bugs."

So, yes, valid criticisms exist from those outside the church. And here's why it's important to consider them. Although it is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Jesus, the public image of the church, whether the church itself has cultivated it or the media manipulates it (I think it is both), our image, well, it sucks. The misunderstandings over what the church IS has become a stumbling block to many people who are interested in Jesus, but are turned off by the church. And it's not just the old "of course the world will hate us because they hated Jesus" line. As Christians called to love those in the world, this should concern us. We shouldn't be something we're not or compromise our beliefs, but we absolutely should make an effort to reach out beyond the four walls of the church: apologize for our faux pas and provide an apologetic to correct the prevalent misconceptions, through open communication, love, example and service.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and HIGHLY recommend it. Kimball puts a face and a story behind the perspectives found in our culture. Smart, sincere, searching people weigh in on the church's image and share their own experiences. Kimball puts forth a brave look at our present dilemma and provides creative ways to go about responding.

To drive the point home about the prevalent perceptions of the church among non-christians, I thought I'd share this clip. This is a clip from Bill Maher, the host of Real Time on HBO, who happens to be the epitome of an "unchurched" generation, only way more bitter. I don't agree with his views in this clip, especially since he's endorsing Hillary Clinton for President (although the personal hatred toward her from many christians disappoints me), but I recognize that his description of evangelical christians is a popular one. Is the church's image a victim of total media distortion or do we in the church perpetuate some of these stereotypes somehow? Does our approach to politics taint our witness? By aligning too closely with the republican party, does the world think that all the tenets of republicanism are the tenets of the church? Does this contribute to the disconnect they perceive between Jesus' teaching and the church? I'm not sure to what extent this plays into it, but let's get out into the world and find out!

WARNING: Maher uses the word "penis" and "ass" during this monologue and makes a few edgy jokes, so you probably shouldn't watch around children. And to clarify, I am not posting this video because I agree with Bill Maher, but because I think his view represents the increasing popular view held by many in our culture.


Anonymous said...

just curious as to why " the personal hatred towards hilary from christians disappoints you" but you constantly post about people you hate. seems a little hypocrital to me.

Tia Lynn said...

Hmm...I do not hate anyone personally. There are many people with whom I strongly disagree, because of their opinions, politics, religion, or public personas, but I do not hate any of these people or wish them any harm. I cannot recall ever saying I hated anyone on this blog. (Feel free to correct me, if I am mistaken, perhaps I thoughtlessly said something in passing during a rant). I also take NO issue with other people voicing their objections to a person, as long as it’s not hateful. I don’t care much for Hillary Clinton. I don’t agree with many of her politics and have no problem with people challenging her, opposing her, not voting for her, etc. etc. I just don’t see the point in personally attacking her. Most people don’t know her personally, her husband is the one that committed adultery, and there’s nothing that has come out as of yet that proves her to be any worse than most politicians. She’s a public figure, so she should be challenged publicly and held accountable for her words and actions, but the below the belt name-calling (anti-christ seems to be a fav.), death threats, and hate-mail from Christians is just not right. Stupid stuff like that is uncalled for and accomplishes nothing constructive in public discourse. I’d much rather debate issues, especially when it comes to people I don’t even know personally. I don’t get why she warrants so much more hatred than other public figures. That’s all I was saying.

As far as me hating people, when Jerry Falwell passed away last year, a person whose remarks angered me constantly and whom I challenged publicly, I mourned! I cried, and regretted that this man, someone’s father, someone’s husband, and someone’s friend, died so suddenly. I am sure he was a good father and husband and tried to live the way he thought best. I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when Pat Robertson passes. Even with Ann Coulter, who makes my blood boil, I would never wish any harm to befall her. Do I wish she’d retire? Yep. Do I think her remarks should be challenged, opposed, corrected, and rejected in civilized discussions? You bet. But that’s the extent of it. I try to look past personal disagreements with people and recognize their worth as a human being. I am sorry, if I gave the impression that I hated someone, although I’d really like for you site an example and also maybe leave your name next time, since I probably know you. If you want to challenge someone, put your name behind it.

Peter said...

Just curious anonymous,

How do you define hate? I’ve been reading Tia Lynn’s blog every week for nearly a year now and I have NEVER encountered a hateful post about anyone. She constantly sticks up for the underdogs, the people who are usually the TARGETS of hate and ignorant generalizations. I’ve read posts in which she questions the judgment of famous leaders or challenges their stances, but I have never gotten the impression that she is filled with hatred for the people she takes on. Is it hatred to speak out against those who propagate hate? Is it hatred to present alternative perspectives to issues that too often get one-sided representation? Is it hatred to advocate fairness, diversity, and some grace from the public figures that are suppose to represent Christians?

Regardless, hating people is not an option for any follower of Jesus, so why do you seem to be looking for a loophole to hate Hillary Clinton, as if you can prove that Tia Lynn somehow personally hates someone, then its ok for others to personally hate Hillary clinton.

Jeff Gill said...

I haven't read this book, but it looks like a good companion to it would be Jim and Casper Go to Church, which I have read.

Terry said...

Many thoughts going through my head on this one. Let me ponder it some more.

Tia Lynn said...

Ahh...Peter, you are my blogging knight in shining armor! Thank you for your kind words.

Jeff, I have heard good things about that book, I’ll have to check it out.

Terry, take all the time you need sister. But just so there is no misunderstanding, the book is not at all about how rotten the church is (just the opposite actually, kimball sees the church as the beautiful bride of christ that is to be a light to a hurting world) or becoming something we’re not to bend to the whims of those outside the church. It’s about how we can communicate truth, or we can correct the misperceptions or misunderstandings, how we can cultivate healthy relationships with “outsiders,” and what we can learn about ourselves by standing in someone else’s shoes. This really is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time that pinpointed so much of what goes on in our culture, in our churches, and how to practically do something about.

tilly hester said...

Bill Maher, being “unchruched,” as you mentioned, doesn’t even really understand the teachings of Jesus, however, I think you are right, he does epitomize a reoccurring perception of the outside world. Unfortunately, “republican” and “Christian” have become interchangeable in many circles (both in and out of the church) and the inevitable result is that the “unchurched” will conclude that everything the republican party stands for is what Christians stand for, and then this obviously leads to what Bill Maher was saying, about how “value voters” don’t really believe what Jesus taught in the first place. I cringed a few times when he listed “Christians’” stances on torture and out of sync priorities with the war on christmas and such things. I’m realizing that our political allegiance to the Republican Party (not participation) sends a terrible mixed message to the world. It’s not altogether compatible with the Christian faith and if Christians do not challenge all political parties, then the world will have no reason to think the church transcends the murky waters of partisan politics.

musicmommy3 said...

Tilly that's good stuff about the church/Republican party.

OK Tia,
I pretty much agree with most everything you wrote here...I know you can just feel the but coming...

But(heehee),The line "the world will hate us because they hated Jesus" is going to be true.

It's also true that we think/know we have the TRUTH and other religions don't. So, that is always going to look arrogant to someone of another faith. Although I TOTALLY agree that how we go about presenting the truth does matter. Michael and I have an aquaintance who is a Jehovah's Witness. While I totally agree that they are not correct I have never gotten into an argument about it with her. For the last year (we don't see her that often) or so I've just asked non baited questions that have given her a chance to share a little about what she believes. She even gave us an encouraging Scripture reference recently. Did I confront her about using Scripture while believing heresy? Heavens no. It was a good Scripture. I am waiting for the opportunity to go deeper in our discussions. I want her to know that I respect her as a person before we engage in a serious discussion.
I think there will always be media distortion but we can help that by living out a loving, non-compromising, respectful walk. The Bible says that they will know we are Christians by our love. That shoud be our defining factor and we all know, that it's not. The first word that comes to my mind is judgemental. Yes, some will be offended because of the message but let's not offend them because we actually are offensive. :):)

"Ma" said...

...they will know we are Christians by our love......and not just the love for the unsaved, but firstly, and repetitively we are admonished to love the bretheren; aka; anyone, anywhere, who calls Christ Lord regardless of dogma or denomination.
Just look around , does it really seem that is happening anywhere you are aware of other than our own 6 square feet of home grown church real estate?
I think Christ had a clue here ( gee, God knows best? wow!) that if we can't play nice in our extended spiritual neighborhood, how the heck could we ever get it right anywhere else?
It takes dying to yourself, regularly, to truly love people. It takes having Christs eyes and heart to be able to see others as He see's them:precious and wonderful potential.
If we can master that..and usually only by His power ( not exclusive of loving non bretheren) the world would see a whole different side of the church. Real love rips down a lot of walls, arrogance and pride.
"huggy kissy make nice for a few hours" doesn't.
did i just totally soap box there? sorry T, must be one of those nights.
Anyway, i think a lot more things would fall into place if we did what Jesus said we should do...then we would look a whole lot more like Him, which to many is a much more appealing sight!

Tia Lynn said...

Yep, Angela. Everything you just said is pretty much what Kimball talks about. And I too believe that yes, the world will hate us because they hated christ, but sometimes I feel like people use that verse to distract from the fact that sometimes people hates us because we can be douchebags (self included). :)

Ma, no apologies necessary. Your rants are always welcome here! And you are right and as you know, this is my huge weakness. I can have oodles of grace for the drug addict, the atheist, the homosexual, the promiscuous, and THE OTHER, but put a fellow christian in my path that struggles with self-righteousness and judges all those groups I just listed and my head explodes! Suddenly the grace barometer is on E. But I am just as wrong because I end up judging them! It’s a vicious cycle. And it’s something I need to work on, big time.

That’s also why I am a big advocate of diverse unity within the church. It’s easy to love people who think exactly alike about everything, but the real test is to be united with other believers from whom you differ, to respectfully disagree and move beyond the grey areas to work together toward the common goals of all christians.

Thanks for weighing in everyone!

Jesse said...

As much as I hate to admit it, Maher made SOME valid points, especially the WWJV part and torture...EEK. No wonder people think we're hypocrites!

Tia Lynn said...

Those statistics Maher read (which I’ve read before) are hard to swallow. But it does bring up an interesting point. Should we as Christians try to “clean up” issues like gay marriage through legislation, when our own churches are over run with divorce, teen pregnancy, and so on? Should we not remove the log from our own eyes before we start condemning those in the world? We do look foolish and hateful when we are selective in our moral outrage.

Steve said...

Hey Tia-

Maher made some excellent points as do you. I look forward to reading more of your blog!

Grace and peace,