Society: Stage-Struck Christianity

Just once, I’d like to read a headline that said a Christian group was boycotting to feed the hungry. Or marching to house the homeless. Or pushing Congress to provide the poor with healthcare worthy of the name.

Instead, they fixate on keeping the gay in their place. Which makes me question their priorities.

And their compassion. And their faith. If you love me, feed my sheep.

For the record … the Bible says that, too.

Leonard Pitts, Miami Herald, March 10, 2006

I like Leonard Pitts. The Miami Herald columnist is one of my favorites even though I don’t always agree with him. He wrote the above column with a fair amount of outrage over a teacher who apparently expressed a negative opinion, complete with biblical footnotes, about the homosexual “issue.”

‘I have some thoughts about the practice of homosexuality and living between the worlds, but I’ll save that for another day. For now, let’s just say I take issue with making people—any people—“an issue.”

What caught my attention was the first paragraph in the excerpt above. I understand his point. Jesus said it similarly when he said,

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23 NAS)

Pitts puts a fine point on things that the holy writings repeatedly emphasize, rightly so. But then he puts them squarely in the public eye. He wants to see Christian groups in the headlines, influencing policy, throwing their weight against the establishment, and making news. In other words, he wants exactly what many Christians want, an audience and a crowd. He wants Christians to keep doing what they’ve been doing in our mediated culture only he wants them to do it—dancing in the spotlight—for different reasons.

The fact is American Christians have been stage-struck for a long time. The lure of the TV screen and the elusive “press coverage” is often the holy grail of ministry. We’ve gotten in the habit of imagining how our efforts will look “in the box” because to be in the news is the mark of success. Sometimes we even believe our own press releases.

Pitts, along with the rest of the country, has seen Christians in the news. He expects to keep seeing them there. He thinks he knows what they should be making noise about. In truth, he is being a bit unfair. There are many Christ-followers who are doing exactly what he says they should. They merely do it out of the public eye, where it ought to be done.

Performing for the world audience is not a relevant activity to those who live between the worlds. Jesus taught that good works should be done in secret—intentionally, passionately, consistently, but quietly. Making the headlines is of little concern. To live between the worlds means being content—even intending—to live in obscurity, which is a place the Creator often visits. Still, as Jesus proved quite effectively, when one lives faithfully between the worlds, the word gets around.

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