Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In light of a recent Sunday evening sermon I preached on the woman caught in adultery, I recently re-reading and shared some of the findings to the congregation from the book unChristian by David Kinnaman which I read and reviewed on this blog back in November 2007. Kinnaman works for the Barna Research Group and he spent quite awhile gathering research about young people's view of Christians and Christianity. He also polled young people within the church, and, surprisingly their views matched the "outsiders" thoughts pretty closely.

Kinnaman discovered that the view of Christians is, in general, quite negative. Christians are seen as hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political and judgmental.

Whether these things are true about Christians or not, these are the perceptions people have of us. And what I thought was extremely interesting and profoundly sad is that the people polled were not getting the majority of their negative feelings from the "liberal media." They were getting them from Christians themselves:
Being hurt by Christianity is far more common among the young than among older outsiders. Three out of every ten young outsiders said they have undergone negative experiences in churches and with Christians. Such hurtful experiences are part of the stories of nearly one out of every two young people who are atheists, agnostics, or of some other faith.

Kinnaman says: "[Y]oung people said they formed their views of Christians based on conversations with others, often with Christians. This is significant because not only does it mean we have a great deal of responsibility in developing many of the perceptions that people hold, but it also suggests the possibility that our words and our lives can change these negative images."

Kinnaman notes that Christians have become "famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for." He points out that people in this generation are naturally skeptical of everything -- not just Christians. They are looking for genuine people, and they see Christians as people who pretend as though we are perfect, when, in fact, we live very similar lives to non-Christians.

Kinnaman said that the automatic reaction of some Christians to this research is to say, "whelp, we expect the world to hate us. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers." This sentiment is true to an extent. Christians receive push back because they are promoting biblical truths and values in a relativistic society. Many people don't want to hear that they're wrong.

However, this does not give us license to avoid the truth in this research. Christians have a bad reputation, and we've apparently done something to get it. Kinnaman points out that we are to represent God's holiness and His grace in our interactions with non-believers.

I've heard some things like this before, but after reading through this research, it is quite sobering to realize how non-Christians view me and my friends. And although Kinnaman is sure to note that in order to fix this problem we should not go around watering down the gospel, he does give suggestions for how we should show Christ to others. Young people today are looking for people who live out what they say they believe, which is good. If Christians, as a whole, try to be more Christlike in our everyday lives, we have the opportunity to change these perceptions.

The apostle Paul advises Christians to 'live wisely among those who are not Christians' and to 'let your conversation be gracious and effective,' (Col. 4:5-6, NLT) Eph. 4:15 still says, “speaking the truth in love.” Paul challenged the Corinthian church that they were to be "the aroma of Christ" to the world. One writer has said: “If people would taste the "Bread of Life," they must be made hungry through the fragrant lives of those who are feeding on it. Sometimes people stay away from the banquet table, not because of the food, but because of the aroma of those on the inside.”

The real possibility exists of having our rhetoric against culture comes across as hatred or dislike of the lost and unconverted, only driving them further away from the good news of Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to show the world His love, not condemn the world (John 3:16-17). Jesus is our model on how to deal with people in our culture. We are His Body, His presence, in the world today. Just as the Father sent Jesus, we have now been sent by Jesus to be the agents of His redemptive love (John 20:21). We can't be content to become enemies of our times, our culture, or our world. Instead, we must learn how to better love them, attempt to have genuine dialogue and understanding of them. We must learn how to better cultivate relationships and environments where others can be deeply transformed by God.

So let's be more careful with our rhetoric and more genuine with our service to those in our communities who are unbelievers!

What do you all think? Is there validity to this research? If so, how can those of us who are Christians do a better job of showing Christ to those around us?

For Christ,

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Christian's Take on Waterboarding

The above picture was a group demonstration of waterboarding

Christians are hardly in agreement on the question of “harsh interrogation techniques” including the controversial waterboarding on terror suspects. Particular right now the water boarding debate is raging. And it should I guess. However, the “politicizing” and “witch hunt” that some want to pursue on the previous Bush administration is ridiculous.

Every administration has greatly differed on the policies of the previous presidential administration. And when a new administratation comes in, there is the moment to change and differ on the policy issues. And President Obama clearly has done that. Right or wrong. I agree with Senator John McCain who on Thursday warned that any attempt by the Obama administration to prosecute the Bush-era officials who wrote memos signing off on water boarding would start a "witch hunt." I thought change meant moving forward and not looking back and focusing on the past mistakes.

I mean even Democrats like Bill Clinton and other leading Republicans who oppose torture like Sen. John McCain say it is acceptable to torture someone in a "ticking bomb" scenario. Real life doesn't produce the kind of a-nuke-is-about-to-go-off scenarios featured on the television drama "24." The closest we are likely to get is the capture of high-level al-Qaida operatives like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with knowledge of ongoing plots. Should we have tortured KSM? Well, we did and reportedly helped roll up al-Qaida terrorists around the world.

Circumstances matter. If we were water boarding political dissidents, then it would be right to compare us to Saddam Hussein. If interrogators were water boarding KSM every morning for their own amusement that would shock the conscience. But not many consciences will be shocked at subjecting him to 90 seconds of uncontrollable panic to get information that might save lives.

If the Senate disagrees, Congress and the President should put itself clearly on record forbidding water boarding. And I think they are probably going to. Enough already with the Bush witch hunts though!

Now, what should a Christian’s perspective and view be concerning all this current watering board controversy? Well, quite frankly, I think you’ll find all kinds of opinions and views from across the broad “Christian perspective.” I think good people, good, sincere, devote, loving Christian people can and will differ over this issue.

I mean, what would Jesus do? Difficult to say the least. .

Well, here’s my Christian view on it.

Many Christians and some leading evangelicals say that water boarding is torture, and that the Christian response has been “shameful.” One writer said in a nutshell: “As Christians we must never condone the use of methods that threaten to undermine the inherent dignity of the person created in the image of God.”

Well, that is not wrong. But it is also not completely right. Water boarding is a form of duress applied during an interrogation. It is not fatal, but it is extreme duress, if the waterboardee doesn’t know if he will live or die.

There are two questions: first, is this an effective means for getting a suspected terrorist to reveal information that might save innocent lives. Second, does the means by which we would obtain this potentially life-saving information undermine our claim to be Christian?

First answer: the effectiveness of the technique is conditional. Those who serve in the military combat arms are waterboarded as part of their training. But virtually all pass through this, knowing that it isn’t for real. Knowing that the service doesn’t want to drown them, only to toughen us up. So it isn’t “torture” when used as a training tool.

For a captured terror suspect, different matter. He doesn’t know he isn’t going to die heinously. It is torture. To which I would add, “so what?” — if, and only if, this is a last resort to protect innocent lives. And, please, terror suspects don’t tend to be innocent. As for whether the technique works, sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t.

Second answer is no. The Bible may be silent on this particular matter, but it does reserve the right for lawfully constituted governments to use the sword (Romans 13). To claim that waterboarding that does not lead to death (or even to permanent injury) is worse than killing is to lose sight of the big picture.

More importantly, we have a duty as Christians to protect those unable to protect themselves. This goes as much for unborn children and the sick and elderly as it does for innocent civilians who are the usual target of cowardly terrorists.

Under the right, and we hope, extraordinarily rare circumstances, waterboarding of a suspected terrorist can be a necessary thing to do and I don’t believe “unChristian”— if there is some potential to protect innocent life.

What do you think?
Robert Prater

Friday, April 10, 2009

Abba Father (remake) - Acappella Company

This is a powerful remake of Acapella’s classic song “Abba Father” (Take me Home). It touches my heart and convicts me of my need to better show the love of Christ to those who are hurting. This video also has a dual meaning. First, that those suffering simply DO want 'outta here"; and secondly, is a cry to be set free, to be saved, a cry of helplessness and hopelessness.

May God help us to show them the way to Christ that will lead all of us home to the Father.

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:15-17)

God bless,