In my last post I listed seven suggestions that Michael Spencer has listed for bridging the chasm between evangelicals and the rest of the world. I thought I would interact with one or two of them in this post.
His first suggestion is that we talk to them rather than to ourselves all of the time. Novel idea, eh?
I agree. I think what he is getting at is that we tend to get all of our information about the world out there from a few gatekeepers of information within evangelical circles. What we know about what is happening out there is filtered to us through these few gatekeepers. Furthermore, most of the gatekeepers through whom this information is filtered to us view this world as a battlefield, whereas I would say that we should view this world as a mission field. The "battlefield" mindset judges those in the world to be our implacable enemies against whom we must stand and fight. Therefore, we have to build a fortress of protection around ourselves, and the only people we talk to about the information we have received are other evangelicals.
If we viewed this world as a mission field rather than a battlefield, we wouldn't see "those people out there" so much as threats. We might see them with the eyes of Jesus, as sheep without a shepherd. We might look upon them with compassion. By compassion, I don't mean a condescending kind of pity. That would be as insulting as viewing them as a threat. It's just that we are to interact with them as respectfully as we can, and understand that there are stories behind whatever hostilities they have toward us. If we listen to the stories we can start building bridges.
Which brings up another point. I'm sure Michael would agree that when he says that we talk to them, that we listen to them also. We should dialogue with them, instead of merely preaching at them. Even George Barna has said that the most effective evangelism done today is "Socratic evangelism," a kind of evangelism that is dialogue rather than monologue. Either way, we've got to listen to what they are saying if we are to build bridges to them.
As a way of practicing this, I followed a link from the Boar's Head Tavern to an article in the Village Voice that was written the night of the election. Of course, the Village Voice is very hostile to Christianity. And, I'm not suggesting that they understand us correctly. But, in this article, among other things, the author from the Village Voice objects to some of the fearmongering that was going on by evangelicals. There were some dire warnings from Christian leaders that, if Kerry were elected, we could lose all kinds of freedoms. One thing in particular was a bill sponsored by Ted Kennedy in relation to hate-crimes. According to Village Voice, the major Christian media (MCM) was suggesting that this bill would open the doors for prosecution of any Christian who would speak out against homosexuality or something like that. The guy from Village Voice asked us to read the bill for ourselves to see if that is what it said.
So, I read the bill. It is specifically addressed to crimes of violence, which are defined as bodily injury. It says nothing about "hate speech." In that respect, some of our Christian media gatekeepers may have insinuated that there was something in the bill that wasn't there.
On the other hand, the guy from the Village Voice needs to understand where Christians are coming from. In doing some research you can find that some of the Christian media gatekeepers see things happening in Canada that are ominous for Christians, that could find their way here to America. Also, there have been enough things happen here in America that give Christians pause to worry.
My point is not to say that the Village Voice is right and the Christian media gatekeepers are right because I think both sides have missed each other's points. My point is that both sides are talking at each other and about each other and are doing nothing to bridge the chasm.
In this case, I am wondering if the Christian media gatekeepers have sat down with the other side to share their concerns and to clarify the intentions of legislation. Or, did they read these things through a grid which assumes the worst? The worst may in fact happen, but it's not a given.
Talking to them will go further toward bridging the chasm and talking about them amongst other evangelicals.
(Note - when I re-read this post this morning (11/6) I found some atrocious grammar mistakes so I have made a few grammatical corrections that didn't change the substance of any of the comments)