Downward Spirals

Over the past few weeks, two blogs (here and here) that I frequent have referenced a book by David Kinnaman (a former Mountain View Toro and older brother of Sherri Kinnaman who I was friends with in high school….Go Toros!!). His book is titled “Unchristian” and I’ve yet to read it but something tells me I should support a fellow Toro and hunt it down.

The book takes a look at the trend of younger generations and their apparent growing hostility towards Christianity. For instance…..

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations when they were at the same stage of life. In fact, in just a decade, many of the Barna measures of the Christian image have shifted substantially downward, fueled in part by a growing sense of disengagement and disillusionment among young people. For instance, a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Andrew Sullivan points out the issue of Christianity’s posture towards homosexuality as a significant contributing factor….and I think he’s right on. Sullivan’s observation here is valuable:

There’s a reason the gay question looms so large. It is very hard to know what we now know about gays and still treat them as the moral pariahs and “disordered” threats to society that Benedict XVI and James Dobson do. And when Christians are known by their fear rather than by their love, the reputation of the faith suffers.

My intention here isn’t to blow open a debate on what we are to believe about homosexuality. I think we’ve covered that base quite enough here on this blog. But I think we do have to ask ourselves about this perception and possibly consider that it is more accurate than American Christians wants fess up to. In my opinion the more vocal leaders of Christians in the U.S. have done a very effective job of creating their own adversaries. Very popular leaders like James Dobson and John Hagee are brilliant in this tactic. They identify their enemies (homosexuality, homosexuals, Islam, planned parenthood, etc.) and then they do their best impersonations of William Wallace on his horse in front of his army, waving his sword in the air, screaming at the injustice of it all, getting the troops pumped up, and psyching their enemies. They are wildly successful in this practice. They have the books sales and political influence to prove it.

I think it might be time for mainstream, American Christianity to seriously recognize that these kinds of tactics are contributing to the facts laid out by David Kinneman. There is a downward spiral happening in the church and the top brass are out of touch. Instead of considering that their tactics have been a detriment, they just do their best to acquire a taller horse, a bigger sword, and scream all the more louder. What they don’t realize is that the rear lines of their army are heading for the hills and aren’t at all interested in their war.

From my perspective, there is a very strong parralell that can be drawn between the downward spirals of both the church and the music business. With the recent news of the RIAA successfully suing a woman for illegally downloading music, I can’t help but see more enemies made and in the long run, the RIAA will badly lose the war they want so desperately to fight.

What are the solutions? I’m not entirely sure but maybe Kinneman’s book will have a few answers. As for the music business, I think making good music and treating fans with respect will probably go a long way. Maybe conditions for both the music industry and American Christianity need to get much worse first before they start to improve. Also, I can’t shake these annoying little words by Jesus…

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is when I read these words that I know I am merely practicing my faith (very poorly) and not living it as I should. Perhaps these words lead us to a solution, but not towards the conventional success we desperately crave but the towards a more hidden, unconventional success we need in order to live full lives.


6 thoughts on “Downward Spirals

  1. Really insightful article on Downward Spirals — during the church’s “40 days of prayer against abortion” kneeling in front of planned parenthoods of the U.S. I have some of the same sense that you point out –that more enemies are being made than good will be manifested.


  2. the problem is, we are the ones left to clean up the mess after dobson and hagee speak. they dont have to do any mopping. what is funny zach, is that i am not sure that that scripture applies here for me personally. i have never really looked at homosexuals or any other people my enemies. dobson and hagee may be calling them that, but that isnt scriptural. that scripture would apply for me and anyone out to get me. but not just because someone doesnt agree with what i believe.

    hear my heart on this, does the damage that dobson and hagee do make them more friends of the gospel or enemies? they have done great stuff for god for sure, but who is left wounded or dying in the aftermath? and how much harder is the work we as the “everyday” christians have to do?

  3. joe, i guess the question we should ask ourselves is do we even want leaders like dobson and hagee even around for the clean up. and i’m not so sure its a matter of going back and righting wrongs. i think it’s a matter of whether or not the consensus of american christians will keep paying attention to these leaders.

    without question, leaders like dobson have done good things. but the heart of the issue is how are they consistently displaying the gospel to the world around them? obviously, we all should be asking ourselves this….but who are our leaders in leading followers of Jesus to live faithfully and how do we keep those voices checked and accountable?

  4. good blog!

    I am a middle school youth worker, and tonight I am speaking on “loving your enemies.” it is crazy, cause i usually read your blogs, but this one was so long so i waited till today to read it, and BAM, what you wrote is the exact thing i am going to be speaking on…

    as Creed would say, “Later skata”

    peace, and keeping posting some good stuff

  5. Great post, Zach. I, too, need to check out unChristian. And I agree–unless friends of Jesus are willing to rethink our attitudes toward the West’s most marginalized group of people (of whom I’m privileged to have friends, even Christian friends, though they’re an oft-ignored ‘minority report’ in the faith), we will be increasingly shrill and–well, un-Christian–in how we’re perceived by our world at large, as well as in our own souls.

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