Today I am pleased to share a post with you from Jonathan Merritt, author of A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars.
The city where I live—Atlanta—is something of a Christian Mecca. Mega-churches (most of them evangelical Protestant congregations) dot the landscape and nearly everyone claims to attend church somewhere. In a wealthy city like ours, the annual budgets of many churches are staggering. Within a ten-mile radius of my home you will find hundreds of houses of worship with budgets sum totaling in the tens of millions.
If you polled the members and ministers in these churches, you would find that most are unequivocally pro-life. But what are they doing about the “culture of death” in America? The pastor might preach a sermon about protecting the unborn on “Sanctity of Life Sunday” or perhaps he’d introduce a local pro-life politician prior to the election. If you’re lucky, the church might even support a pregnancy resource center.
I wonder how our community might be different if our churches banded together on this issue. What if we took all the money that pays for over-the-top programming or staff members whose jobs could be and should be done by the congregants themselves and placed it for practical use in reducing abortions?
“If you are a woman who feels like you cannot bring your child to term for any reason, come see us first,” our collective of churches might declare. “We will walk beside you during this process to ensure that you can bring your child to term and provide for that child’s needs in infancy. We will purchase the diapers and pay for the doctor’s visits. If you worry you can’t provide for your child because you lack an education, we’ll pay for your schooling. If you need to work and can’t afford daycare during your child’s early years, we’ll cover it.
How might the abortion debate look different in my community if that were our approach? Our commitment to an ethic of life would still be reflected in individual political advocacy and voting decisions, but our claims to love life would be made credible by our actions.
Following Jesus doesn’t mean exiting the public square. Read the New Testament even once and you’ll realize that following Jesus cannot be a private matter. Christians may often follow Jesus into the public square. Nineteenth century Christian abolitionists did, and so did 20th century civil rights leaders. But they should never equate advocacy with followship as if they can vote their way into God’s graces. The faithful must put feet to faith, to engage their hands for the healing, helping and restoration of this world.
In the words of John Stott, “While personal commitment to change our life-style without political action to change systems of injustice lacks effectiveness, political action without personal commitment lacks integrity.”
Today’s Christians are making a positive course correction by moving beyond an advocacy-only religion to a “follow me” faith. They want to following Jesus without fighting the culture wars. You might say the change we’re witnessing is a shift from a political faith to an incarnational faith. One that seeks to be a faithful presence in the public square but knows that real change happens when we heal and help each other. We must begin looking for opportunities to do just that.
Post adapted from A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars. Copyright © 2012. Used by permission.