The American Spectator, an excellent paleo-conservative publication, posted this revealing article on their website today: Plus Eight is Enough. The brief article (which I recommend reading) highlights recent tabloid stories of Christian politicians and reality-show celebs, and broader statistics which show that Evangelical and other conservative Christians in the U.S. aren't doing too good of a job "walking the talk" when it comes to our divorce, unwed pregnancy, and abortion rates (especially in the so-called "red states" where Christians often predominate). These rates are usually equal to, and in some cases are higher than, those of non-Christians in the region. This is both ironic and tragic, since these are of course very hot-button issues which we so often seem to talk the loudest about in the public sphere and in frequently lobbied-for governmental legislation.
As a response to Mr. Allott's article, I wrote the following thoughts:
Thank you, Mr. Allott, for this thoughtful and balanced corrective for the church of Jesus Christ in America. It is a sad, but accurate, summary of how too many of us who call ourselves Christian have separated our ideals from our actual, lived-out values. Social scientists have documented how groups often become more vocal and "enthusiastic" about their unique positions and practices when they are experiencing a downfall, to reactively strengthen what makes them unique. Unfortunately, too many American Christians have done so with the issues of abortion, sexual behavior, and the defense of traditional marriage. I understand and identify with the frustrations felt with the eroding of these values on a larger social scale (and in so many Christians’ practice as these sobering statistics reveal), but in the midst of shifting social currents, we must be careful to not lose our heads and switch to some type of ideological reactionary state where we battle loudly over "protecting" the family through legislation while we ignore our own; complain about schools giving out condoms while our sons and daughters, whom we've lost meaningful relationships with and respect from due to our overly “busy” lives, are having unprotected sex; tell people to keep their babies when we do little to help out the ones that do once the children are born--we place almost all of the responsibility on the mother, with little required of deadbeat dads, there are sagging job opportunities, and social mindsets in many areas have the #1 goal for young people as: get a no-brain job, get pregnant, and have kids--no vision, no joy, no creativity, no entrepreneurship, no bettering your community or even taking care of your physical health (look at the absurd obesity rates in the U.S.), and we frequently over-spiritualize relational and even mental issues that concurrently need to be dealt with on a "natural" level (via counseling, support, recovery groups, etc.), often to the detriment of our families, marriages, and other relationships.
Aaron wrote a telling comment (on the article, on the website): “The fact is that for Conservative Christians, living the good life is all that matters. We are not on a crusade, we are not trying to take over the world, don't try and fix us too.” From my understanding of Scripture, that is part of the problem. Our focus as Christians isn’t to be on “living the good life,” in some type of “us four and no more” way. God’s heart is poured outward unto us; as disciples, ours is to mimic His--poured out unto Him, but also to our “neighbor.” When Christians prioritize their own benefit and become insular, they abandon the Great Commission, which is to spread the “good news” of Christ and His Kingdom to all the nations, teaching them to follow Him as well. No, we are not trying to take over the world (although there are Christians who incorrectly adopt that mindset, too), but we are to tangibly influence it for the Kingdom, here and abroad, with authentic, generous, life-giving lives. According to Jesus’ great paradox of “he who loses his life for My sake will find it,” that is where “the good life” is found, and my personal experience verifies that. Small-minded, fearful, appearance-oriented, and insular “Christianity” has got to go; people need a vision that extends beyond themselves, one that they actually begin to live out in the power of the transforming Holy Spirit.
Too many factions of the church in America have become too afraid to get "messy" so that the real issues (and yes, accountability) become taboo and aren't dealt with—well, until someone crosses the line and gets sent to the religious firing squad. Churches with truly healthy congregations are usually places where people feel loved enough AND where the people are "real" enough to be honest about their own "stuff" that actual healing/discipleship can take place. Otherwise, we too quickly become self-righteous ideologues who raise the standard higher than we ourselves ever intend to reach, and feel some sort of almost ethnic privilege because of our "correct" doctrine, and not our correct, stumbling-towards-Christ actions. The lived-out Gospel is what transforms people, communities, and nations for God's kingdom. But until the Church (Protestant, Catholic, etc.) gets real and gains discernment into the social situations and cultures that they live in, we will often stop short our analysis of these important issues at the "church level," ignorant of our own blind spots and familial/cultural issues that contribute to these problems. God doesn't live in a box, let's stop trying to put Him in one, and de-segregate Him from the rest of our lives, working together with our brothers and sisters in Christ across denominational, ethnic, and class lines toward real solutions.