Christians Across a Polarized Culture

A commonplace assertion of contemporary American culture is that the religious "brand" is identified with the conservative right -- at least when it comes to Christianity. This idea in borne out by the megaphone of the religious right on several social issues identified with Republican conservatism on the right hand, and the association with secularism on the liberal left. This trend seems to be increasing as fewer folks who identify as liberal or progressive identify as Christians. Of course, this may have more to do with the public representation of Christianity, particularly in the popular imagination and media representations. The very term "Christian" is often shorthand for Republican and politically conservative (and let's not even discuss the lack of nuance the word "Republican" carries in today's climate). No wonder many spiritual seekers stay clear of churches of any kind.

Christianity has become the polarizing social marker dividing Americans, preventing churches from becoming venues for civil conversations about issues about which we may disagree. Those sorts of conversations across ideological divides are rare in our current culture wars, and churches could have the potential for bridging those differences if we might trust our common religious faith to help us navigate the storms of political difference.

Beyond this, those of us who are Christians and identify as progressive not because of a political identity, but because of our understanding of Jesus' message, have been virtually silenced in the public square, making it even more difficult to reach out to secular progressives with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we have come to know it.

These realities make it crucial for us at St. John's and for others who are Christian and progressive in our politics to articulate our faith to those who have a limited vision of what "Christian" means. That's why this whole program year we will devote our Christian Education forums to a crucial topic: "Thinking Christian(ly)." We will explore what it means to articulate our faith, to think about it in ways that address our questions, and then also to think about how we think. How does our life as disciples of Jesus Christ shape our politics, our ethics and our decision making? That might mean that we will come across some differences in our own community.

These issues are so central to our civic engagement today and they are central to the very survival of Christianity in our time. We no longer have the luxury of private religion. You and I cannot be other than full time disciples of Jesus and evangelists -- good news bringers in a society that needs to love and listen and to trust in the goodwill that exists across our differing perspectives. Please be part of this exciting and challenging conversation beginning Sunday October 13 at 9:15am, when we begin looking at what the Bible is and the assumptions we bring in understanding it.

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