Friday, August 12, 2011

Missing Something?

So, today was my last day at work until next summer (for that specific workplace) and I was finishing up my shift when one of my co-workers comes up and says "Have fun back home."

Caught off-guard, I reply, saying "I'm not going home just yet; I'm heading up to Liberty."

At that, her whole demeanor changed and she replied, saying "Eww, really? Liberty?"

So, here we have a problem. Liberty is fairly well-known at my workplace as the '[extremely] conservative, Christian university up in Lynchburg'. Right up, we are doing something right: we are being forward with our message and becoming known as a school of Christians, but what I want to know is, what are we doing that is pushing people away from the message of God?

Now, I know, the Bible talks about Christ being a light in darkness which the darkness doesn't understand (John 1:5) and those walking in darkness lacking understanding, too (Psalm 82:5), but I think there is more to this aversion towards Liberty than simply not understanding. , There is, however , a quote (whose origin I have not been able to trace) which seems to shed some proverbial light on the situation: "We fear that which we do not understand, we hate what we understand even less, we condescend to what we understand least of all."

So, we have fear, hatred and condescension stemming from a lack of understanding, but I don't think those are the main reasons people look at Christians or, in this case, Liberty and are turned away. So, if it's not the message that puts people off, it must be the messenger, right? What, then, as Christians, are we doing wrong? Real or perceived, unaddressed character flaws. C. S. Lewis, in fact, speaks about this issue in The Screwtape Letters as a tool used by demons in dissuading their temptees away from the "Enemy" (God). They take a character flaw that a person has and plays on it to either greaten the flaw itself or enlarge others' perception of it. 

So, I'm sure you're wondering what these character flaws are, right? They could be anything. They could be large, like hypocrisy or greed, or small, like irritability or complaining. (Disclaimer: I am not perfect, nor am I casting judgment on others who show such flaws as I, too, fall victim to these same failings, amongst others.) 

Flaws and misunderstandings aside, another major turnoff that I can think of (and the last which I shall mention) is the manner in which we Christians spread the Gospel. Sometimes, frankly, we have the tact and grace of a 2 x 4. Bible-bashing, turn-or-burn speeches, tracts-for-tips, anti-[insert social evil] rallies or other similar witnessing tactics, whether hyperconfrontational, insulting, tactless or some combination thereof, simply make Christianity less than desirable. Our message is one of love, grace, mercy and forgiveness; each of which is given despite our unholiness, yet so often, only our unholiness and the punishment therefore is mentioned, with no real deliberation on the alternative.

So, why is it that a well-known, Christian university is viewed with disdain, dislike or even disgust? It could be one of the reasons listed above, one not listed or some combination thereof. Unfortunately, it's not just Liberty that's viewed in such a manner, but the whole of Christendom. How, then, can we change this perception? It's seemingly simple: you (yes you, reading this) need to return to both the letter and the spirit of the Gospel and devote yourselves, first, to it, to following it, to understanding it, to furthering it... It's not an easy task; it will take your whole life to fulfill and even then, there will be more yet unfulfilled. There will be pain and persecution, but the work is rewarding and the after-life retirement package is beyond comprehension.

So come, pick up the cross, fix your eyes back on Christ and spread the Gospel.