Monday, June 25, 2012

They Will Know We Are Christians By Our . . .

How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
1 John 3:17
The following video was shown during worship yesterday:

 On this same day, The New York Times offered what will surely be a much-discussed op-ed by David Leonhardt:
The generation gap may not be a pop culture staple, as it was in the 1960s, but it is probably wider than it has been at any time since then.
For those who have been following this blog, this is a much-discussed theme. The reality that people coming of age over the past decade live in a world very different from the one in which people my age, including our current President, came of age needs repeating and amplification.

Among the many (to me, unsurprising) things that mark out the differences between young adults and the rest of America is something that should surprise no one: "they are also notably less religious". Clustered within a larger group of social attitudes that are vastly different from those of my own and older Americans, displaying an acceptance of national diversity across a wide array of areas, from racial and ethnic attitudes to sexual difference, the evidence is clear: younger Americans live in an America that is a place to celebrate.

The challenge, of course, is the divergence evident in their views regarding their acceptance of our diverse human landscape and their insouciance toward religious belief. I have little doubt that, at least at an anecdotal level, the video expresses precisely the hurdle over which we in the Christian Churches have yet to leap. Not that our churches are seed-beds of intolerance and bigotry; rather, our most visible and vocal advocates are seen, far too often, as preaching and practicing a kind of social and cultural distinctiveness that is closed to the varieties of human life choices that are evident in society. 

I believe we deserve the loss of much of a generation of Americans, alive to the hypocrisy of our alleged devotion to a God of love that no longer presents that love to and for the world. Even the best, most open, most active, most vital congregations cannot escape the judgment laid upon us by a large swath of young Americans that we just aren't relevant anymore in a world that has changed so much. 

I for one freely admit my membership and participation in a denomination that continues to lag far behind in its acceptance of the new realities around us. I admit that, as a person called United Methodist, I have failed in fellowship and faithfulness with my fellow Americans.

Confessing our manifold sins, however, without active penance is meaningless. We need, as all Christians do in all times and places, to find our voice so we can speak the singular confession that Jesus Christ died and was raised by God for us. We need to learn a new language to speak that confession so that it makes sense in a world that has lost any sense that "sin" has meaning.

Most of all, we should order our lives together as communities of faith that live out that confession. Our worship and liturgy, the first work of Christians gathered together, should speak and sing and pray in the emerging vocabularies of this new day. The promise of disciplined mutual accountability should be offered as an antidote to the atomizing anomie inherent in the regnant individualism of the rest of American society.

Finally, if we are to be known by our love, we should live that love out in and for the world. When we see acts of mercy and justice, we should celebrate the presence of the Spirit of God in them, even if those who did them would not do so. When we hear tell of self-sacrifice for others, even if done in the name of another god, we should remember that this is the witness of Christ, and call others to see Christ present even if Christ isn't known there. These are some of the ways we can witness to the reality that is the crucified and risen Christ in the world through the Body of Christ, the Church. Let this be our witness and confession in a world that isn't so much hostile as apathetic to the reality of God's gracious love for it.

Virtual Tin Cup

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