We are in an election season. We are always in an election season, it seems, what with the constant news clips, sound bites, and tirades, the angling and positioning of our elected officials, who, it is said, begin their next campaigns the day after they are elected. In today's case, there is an election day at hand, and choices to be made.
The Christian Left and the Evangelicals have, to my ears, been mumbling more than in prior seasons. Individuals have sounded off, declaring this or that in favor of one candidate or another, but there hasn't been the same level of organization, of blocks of support bearing banners of righteousness for their positions. Even issues don't pack a punch. The anti-this, pro-that "values voting" (we all vote our values, don't we?) people just don't seem to have anything they can trumpet with a consistent blast.
One could argue that it's the candidates' fault, that there is no one out there who truly represents a Christian or biblical world view, or that they're all so awful it's hard to choose. One could argue that, but I think the candidates are a product not a cause of Christian malaise.
We are stymied because we no longer have an answer to a simple question:
What is a Christian for?
If we identify as Christians, we know what we're supposed to believe--what we've been taught is the Christian Party Line. Your Christian Party Line may differ from mine, but we both know what the "right" answers are.
Having right answers isn't enough. Not anymore, if it ever was. What is bothering many of us, Christian or not, is that we have no sense of purpose.
If Christians are just trying to avoid hell, and "hell" is a questionable concept, what is the point?
The institutional church--meaning any kind of formal ecclesial structure directed toward self-preservation--has been dying for a very long time. When "Christian" is no longer a viable affiliation--a group to which one wishes to belong or a platform worth promoting--the real question isn't about whether you should be a Christian. The better question is: should I take Jesus as my example and teacher in authentic and loving living?
If you choose, not to be Christian, necessarily, but to take Jesus as example and teacher, what your're really saying is that
Jesus is right, at least about the really important stuff, like wholeness, beauty, truth, goodness, kindness, and communion with God and others.
Once you decide that -- that you're going to learn how to live from someone and Jesus is the best Someone around -- the question "what is a Christian for?" has a pretty simple answer:
Christians are for the really important stuff, like wholeness, beauty, truth, goodness, kindness, and communion with God and others.
If you are a Jesus-follower, whether you're a Christian or not, then you are to be for what he is for. That is our purpose. The rest might as well be hell: experiential reality, questionable importance.