A subtle yet important question embedded here is one of influence: How are Christians called to influence the larger culture? As long as I’ve been an adult swimming in and out of Christian waters, talk of “witness” and “Christ redeeming culture” has seemed to hinge more on strategies leveraging temporal power than it has about nurturing contexts for demonstrations of God’s power. From messianic hopes placed in the White House every four years, to theories of cultural change overly dependent upon our elites and the institutions they represent maintaining the public trust, there seems to be a glaring forgetfulness about who Jesus Christ said He was and the Beatitudinal Kingdom He came to bring. Many white believers in particular, if I may, are expressing crisis-level concern that Christianity is threatened in the West, a fear that has driven them to make certain political choices and appear like an aggrieved minority hungry for lost power. While I believe deeply in the leavening role the sacred sector plays in our society and will march to preserve the freedoms of the faithful as indispensable to our democracy surviving, the rhetoric from today’s more conservative spokesmen make them look amazingly ignorant of what their faith community actually is in their own nation, of Christianity’s growth and vitality among the burgeoning sectors of our society. In short, those who get to speak for “We, the Church” are too often found fighting their own oppression while not attending to the struggles, energy AND the wisdom of their brothers and sisters from historically non-dominant worlds.
Now, a personal caveat. I’m really grateful for Western civilization: I’ve been shaped by its ideals, I’ve worked for several institutions that seek to protect and advance them. But here at Nyack, in all its grittiness and prismatic perspective, the future felt closer, the Christian difference more palpable. Here were souls whose stories were rooted in exile, and yet they were living into this exile with hope and hospitality. And I wondered, sitting there, tears coming down my face, if the more visible ambassadors of American Christianity, concerned for the future of Western civilization and the freedoms of the faithful, could learn something from their posture and build an alliance.
This next season of Comment Magazine would like to play a role in bridging these worlds and resourcing their brother and sisterhood. As sincere people of faith navigate an era that once again scorns and misunderstands us, there is a need to look beyond each of our own cultural and ecclesial comfort zones for instruction, sustenance and relationship with those whose lives are surrendered to the same Source of Life and Love, yet are faced with different pains, equipped with different gifts, and live in trusted relationship with different communities. We at Comment would like to provide a long and unruly banquet table both on and off our actual pages for conversation, exploration, storytelling and artistic expression that is at once more Beatitudinal, more widely accessible to people of all walks of life, and more reflective of the body of Christ in ALL its beauty, scars and missteps. We’d also like to be more hospitable to those who, in the lonely cry of our age, say, “I don’t believe in God, but I sure do miss Him.”
Read it all.