Monday, January 30, 2006

The Christian BBQ

I've been thinking about my conversations with unbelievers, their common complaints about Christians, and what parts of my own culture I'm willing to throw into the fire for the sake of advancing the Gospel.

Upon further review, I'm realizing this is a vital part of evangelism, because it prepares me for questions that I haven't always been prepared for. I'm not talking about deep theological discussions here. I mean having to explain the difference between Biblical faith and Christian culture, two entities which, from my point of view, can be in total opposition to each other.

Below is an unordered list of a few things I've conceded, followed by my impromptu apologetics.

  • Christians are sexually repressed.

    The quick answer is, "Of course." Man's natural instinct is to indulge, and as Christians, we are taught to not be slaves to our flesh. The question I often follow with is, "If the Bible is not the center of your sexual understanding, what is your authority of understanding on the topic?" I get a lot of answers, none uniform. Occasionally I hear uncomfortable endorsements of Kinsey, but let's be honest -- Kinsey's research has been debunked by plenty of non-Christians and Kinsey's own personal failings widely exposed for this to be a cultural impact into the future.

    More commonly I witness people justified by their own instinct, because what comes natural and easy is today's standard. The new American secular mindframe defines sin as opposing one's instinct. I then respond by pointing out pedophilia comes "natural" to pedophiles. It's amazing how people who start out arguing against moral standards suddenly develop one, but I think it's a question that requires answering for those who argue in favor of natural instinct.

    Short of leading them back to a Biblical understanding, I have no shame in tossing aBiblical interpretation of sexual standards right into the fire. Sex has more purpose than procreation. It is for the enjoyment between two people in a marriage union blessed by God. After all, even celibate Paul noted the marriage bed was undefiled. I think the issue is sex as just one expression of an intimacy that can and should be expressed in so many other ways. It's the difference between what is satisfying and what is fulfilling -- what appeases the flesh and what nourishes the soul.

  • Christian are anti-intellectual

    This one is hard to understand in light of history, since so many of man's most celebrated thinkers have been Christians. However, if your personal experience with Christians is your neighbors in the suburbs, I can see how this opinion can develop.

    Do many Christians profess a faith without much understanding? Absolutely. Do millions of Christians -- embarrassingly -- think going to church, being sanctimonious, and doing good deeds equates to personal holiness? Yes. No denial here. Do many Christians enter into more intellectual debates on science, art, and literature without so much as a cursory glance at the opposition's material? Frustrating as it is, yes, yes, and yes.

    In the cultural war that is America, too many Christians try to live above, outside, and beyond this world, and I am willing to offer this up to any unbelieving critic. It is wrong to attempt to deconstruct evolution in an academic sense if your only source is X Christian author. The reason is not because evolution has any more merit, but because its unlikely you've been presented the more challenging facts in their entirety or depth. To those who have studied evolution, even in a lay expert fashion, you lose credibility and damage the reputation of other Christians who have studied evolution.

    Another irritating component of this is Christians who get caught up in the anti-cultural media swamp whenever a controversial movie or piece of art becomes part of the public discourse. Am I going to avoid Brokeback Mountain because of its content? Yes. Have I probably sacrificed my right to criticize the movie at length? I think so. Without armed with all the facts, my opinion can only be a regurgitation of someone else's criticism. To do so would lack intellectual honesty and credibility. However, I think the world knows traditional Christians are predisposed against homosexuality, and will not support art that panders a different message. I don't need to beat the issue with my friends who already understand my predisposition, and I don't think I need to preach to the choir, either. Furthermore, I don't think I need to beat Christians who do see the movie around the ears with a Scofield. There are plenty of valid reasons to view and study non-Christian art, although I think there's an added requirement of spiritual maturity. That's a local church issue, though.

  • Christians are hypocrites

    No duh.

    Hypocrite, noun: a person who professes beliefs and opinions that he does not personally practice.

    The implied statement is, All Christians are hypocrites, but the understood statement is, The Christians who've stood out in my life are the obnoxious, meddling, judgmental types who expected me to live up to a standard [as an unbeliever] they couldn't live up to themselves [as alleged believers].

    My common response is, "Yes, I know those people, too." My best response was, "Yep, I'm a hypocrite, too." The latter response leads right into the real Gospel, which is not earned, and the profundity that God doesn't expect us to clean ourselves up before we take a (spiritual) bath.

    I think this is the truth we have to accept. We are sinners who profess the need for a sinless life. It's a paradox that's impossible to explain to the world without explaining the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We preach regeneration, but it is not ours to claim, nor have I have known anyone who was spiritually expleo on their own.

    I acknowledge my hypocrisy and apologize for it, first because I believe that is the Paulinian expectations of the Christian paradox, and second because I believe its that kind of honesty that the Spirit uses to pierce an unbeliever's doubts.

    So what are some of the common conceptions or misconceptions of Christians you freely concede to unbelievers?
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