02-10-2020: Fifth Week after Epiphany

I’m doing my best to get this note together before 9:30 am. A reporter from NPR is coming out to the church for an interview regarding Livingston County politics—namely, the 8th Congressional District of Michigan. I don’t know the questions I’ll be asked, but I will, of course, do my best to speak in a way that reveals the Christian perspective on things. Hopefully, there will be some takeaways that will help listeners better understand why the Church might take particular positions on certain issues and candidates.

A friend told me on Sunday he was nervous for me. Admittedly, I need to be very careful. NPR is by no means covert in its tendency to lean toward a particular worldview that, for the most part, isn’t in favor of conservative, Judeo-Christian values. Aware of this, I’ll need to steer into the conversation understanding that whatever I say will inevitably be whittled down and passed along in soundbites situated here and there, all for the sake of presenting a final product that maintains controversy while keeping within the frame of opinion NPR already desires to deliver.

I also need to take care to remember that the America listening to the broadcast isn’t as it used to be.

What was once normal isn’t normal anymore. The America in which Christianity was cherished as an underpinning for a good and decent society is now a distant and alien land. Christians are loathed today, and perhaps like you, I’m suspicious of the news media’s role in fostering the negative sentiment. In fact, I’m willing to admit that when it comes to our nation’s news media, the job of delivering daily happenings has become less an avenue for factual reporting and more an exercise in artful creativity.

Anyone can deliver facts. But to handle those facts in a way that seeks to bend the belief systems of the recipient toward a particular agenda, that takes real skill.

One doesn’t need to search very far to discover outlets epitomizing this. Apart from NPR, consider CNN and MSNBC. These two outlets are pretty open about Christianity being nothing more than a consolidation of everything dreadful. They barely blink in their efforts to frame us as backwater, heartless, and imposingly cruel bigots. I, myself, have been confronted by the results of their mind-bending efforts, having been told point blank by people on the street that pastors who preach and teach the Christ of the Bible are what’s wrong with our nation. In their words, the perpetuation of a Christianity that actually holds to the Holy Scriptures is keeping America from reaching her fullest potential. To be rid of us would be to have an open horizon toward whatever the human heart might desire.

I’m going into this interview knowing how the news media is already working to frame me, and how a world of listeners quite possibly already perceives me. But I do it knowing that the Lord I confess, the One who operates within the certain and immutable confines of His Word, He was the One first despised (John 15:18). The world had no use for Jesus. It wanted to be rid of Him. As a result, Christ told His Christians the world would measure against us similarly. And why? Because the world demands our absolute allegiance and our total submission. And yet our Lord so crisply offered, “…you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world…” (John 15:19). Our devotion to Him will always be interpreted as a slight to the world.

I probably don’t need to tell you just how eerily close we are to undergoing what the early Church experienced. We are frighteningly adjacent to those days when the only acceptable god to be worshipped was Caesar, and as a result, the Christians found themselves existing in the shadows.

And yet, in the midst of this, Christ gave quite a beautiful exposition in the Sermon on the Mount, reminding us that no matter what’s going on around us, we remain salt and light. He staked the claim that by the faithful fruits the Holy Spirit produces in and through us by the Gospel of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, people will become onlookers to something extraordinary. A possible result from this will be that they give glory to the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

Believe it or not, Jesus points out that simple faithfulness to Christ is indeed a powerful form of evangelism. It has a way of drawing others to consider that something otherworldly may be at play in the lives of Christians, something of which they are truly convinced. Destroy their reputations, shackle them, feed them to beasts—do what you will. Still, they won’t swerve from claiming Christ as their Savior, and they won’t let go of His Word as the sole source for faith, life, and practice.

I hope to be able to emit this divine “something” in a way that, even if a larger portion of my words gets snipped to pieces in production, what’s required for truly communicating the Church’s Gospel focus won’t have fallen to the cutting room floor.