Christians just love forwarding email. It’s almost as if we can’t help ourselves. Send us some ridiculous thing about boycotting Proctor & Gamble or about how the government is going to shut down Christian radio stations, and we’ll have sent it to everyone we know before you can say, “Snopes.com.” My personal favorite (and by “favorite” I mean “I hate this”) is when it’s something about angels protecting our troops or whatever (with the baby angel graphics hovering in the background) and then it ends with the message that if you love God, you will pray for the military and send the message to at least 10 people in the next hour (the implication being that if you don’t send it, you must not love God and we might lose the war on terror because of you). Then there’s the whole “sick child” email and all its iterations. This has become so commonplace that there’s actually a website (www.breakthechain.org) that features a “Sick Child Hoax-O-Matic.” It’s sort of like mad-libs where you plug in a boy’s name and a body part along with several other key words. In less than a second, you can have your very own Sick Child email to send to all your friends. It’ll be entirely false, of course, but no one’s checking, right?
Unfortunately, those who view the Christian community as being naïve and undiscerning are not always off base. Sometimes we just don’t think! Like when we put catchy slogans up on our church marquees that say really trite things that we (somehow) think are clever: “God answers knee-mail,” or this summertime favorite, “You think it’s hot out here…” followed up by “The Son can prevent you from burning!” or “Our church is prayer-conditioned.”
How do you suppose that sounds to a normal person? I have never heard a single person say, “I was driving by the church building and saw your sign. I thought to myself, I do think it’s hot out here. Obviously, hell is going to be hotter than this, so I should probably go in there and give my heart to Jesus.”
Neither have I ever had a waitress tell me, “The reason I first came to church is because Christians are always the best customers I have. They never complain. They always tip generously. I love Sunday lunch because of all the non-complaining, generous-tipping Christians I get to wait on.”
As Christians, we are often our own worst enemies. The world watches as we wade through scandals, abuse, cover-up, deception, intolerance. We shoot our own wounded, we close ourselves up in enclaves. We panic and believe the worst about people. We boycott movies no one is really interested in seeing and ban books no one really wants to read, sometimes making them more popular by doing so! We get upset over tiny issues (like how many bad words were used in a particular movie) while allowing huge problems to go unaddressed (the plight of the homeless or AIDS and war in Africa). We allow ourselves to get distracted from our true mission (to be a redemptive force in our world) by chasing all these rabbits. As the old proverb goes, “If a dog chases two rabbits, he will never catch one.”
We go on television looking like hysterical Chicken Littles claiming, “The sky is falling!” Then we wonder how anyone could possibly believe the crazy teachings of the new-age movement and why our numbers are shrinking?
This part is really simple: until the church decides to get its own house in order, we will be ripe fodder for our critics, and we will dishonor the name of the One we represent on this earth.