Declare your faith in Jesus Christ today (by adding your name to this online database)!

I came across this online petition today courtesy of Franklin Graham. Now I’m sure Frank is a solid guy, but frankly, this sort of thing strikes me as an utter waste of time. These things also make me wonder about the expectations that Christians have.

I want to just point out a few things that I think are problematic. Let’s begin with the header.

“In a culture where people are loudly proclaiming they are “good without God” it’s time to stand up and say…”I am a Christian.”

Aside from the fact that I don’t hear all that many folks going around saying they’re “good without God” my first question here is, “why?” Why do we need to stand up and say “I am a Christian”? If we need to “proclaim” that we are Christians then I think we need to ask some hard questions about the nature of our faith. If you need to proclaim your faith, is that an indication of faith or of non-faith? I would argue the latter. Faith is not some objective list of statements that is proclaimed. Faith is something that transforms the life of the hearer and this needs no proclamation.

“Non-believers are not afraid to say they are “good” without God. Let your voice be heard. Don’t be afraid to say you are a Christian.”

To be quite honest, I find this sort of polarization quite unChristian. Actually, perhaps the real problem is that this sort of polarization is all too Christian. There is no clean line that can be drawn between the good guys (the Christians) and the bad guys (the pagans). To attempt to do this is, I think, to fail to take seriously the effects of sin and death in the world. Every person (“Christian” or not) is broken and in need of redemption that comes through Christ. For Frank to pit “Christians” against “non-believers” is, I think, dangerous, unhealthy, and utterly problematic (not to mention counter-redemptive).

“At a time when God’s truth is being attacked on all sides, now more than ever, Christians need to take a stand and declare their faith in Jesus Christ.”

I couldn’t disagree with this mindset more. First of all, the term “God’s truth” is rather ambiguous. Just what is meant by this? What is God’s truth and what does he mean when he talks about it being attacked? Does Frank mean the legalization of homosexual marriage (the sort of bullshit that you hear coming from the likes of Dobson and friends who are convinced that the queers are destroying families everywhere)? Does he mean Federal funding for abortion? Does he mean Christians who can’t get their heads out of their asses? I’m curious as to how familiar Frank is with the Judeo-Christian scriptures/narrative. As far as I can tell “God’s truth” is not, nor has it ever been, under attack. In fact, it seems to me that “God’s truth” cannot be attacked. The problem with talking about “God’s truth” as being under attack is that “God’s truth” is objectified. This is important, and a huge mistake as far as I can tell. God and “his truth” are not objects for our study. We cannot pin them down and master them. We cannot grasp God and his truth. To turn God and “his truth” into an object for our study is, I believe, a grievous error and confusion. It’s a very Western/Modern understanding of God. All truth is God’s truth and it is not an object that can be attacked. Rather, it is something that is beyond objectification, something that transforms the hearer. In addition, I think this sort of mindset furthers the false Christian/non-Christian polarizing paradigm that I mentioned above.

The early believers had no expectations whatsoever that they would live comfortable lives in the midst of the Empire. So why the hell would “believers” today? This is what happens when something as radical and life-transforming as following Jesus is domesticated and neutered and shut up in a box only to be reduced to some sort of reflection of white-middle-class morality. Pop-Christianity in the West has very little to do with Jesus at all.

However, as I got further down the page I started to wonder if by signing my name I was proclaiming my faith at all.

“The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association needs partners like you who will join us in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. By filling out your contact information, you will also be signing up to learn more about the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.”

So Frank, am I declaring my faith or signing up to learn more about your organization? At best this is clever marketing…however, I fear it’s really deception in drag as clever marketing. Shit, I think Rob Bell was right, Jesus wants to save Christians.

Please, don’t declare your faith…abandon it.

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10 comments
  1. With you all the way Turtle. “The church shouldn’t have an apologetic, it should *be* an apologetic.” – B. Walsh

    Except I’m confused what you mean by “don’t proclaim your faith…abandon it.” Abandon my faith? do you mean abandon the idea of faith being a list of objective statements? could you clarify what you mean?

  2. jt* said:

    Every question I answer will only lead to more questions.

  3. Mollie Coles Tonn said:

    I fully agree that the polarization of christians and non believers is a fallacious and dangerous practice. I also agree that ‘God’s Truth’ is not something you can objectify. I also am very wary of just how much christian talk or sharing has a market-stink to it in North America. (“Deception in drag”-hilarious)

    The further our conversations about God and truth are away from colonialist rhetoric (The ultimate form of violent marketing) and economy/marketing based language, the better.

    The kingdom of God is not about power or money so lets not talk about it as though we are about to take over a village or sell you some product.

    Just my initial thoughts.

    Mollie

  4. jt* said:

    @Mollie,

    “Deception in drag” – a shout out to Bruce Cockburn. He uses a similar line in his song “Call it Democracy” (“Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom”).

    “The further our conversations about God and truth are away from colonialist rhetoric (The ultimate form of violent marketing) and economy/marketing based language, the better.”

    Great stuff! Totally agree.

    @Jenn,

    Obviously the Lost quote was a jest! “do you mean abandon the idea of faith being a list of objective statements?” That’s along the lines of what I mean. Both Peter Rollins and Slavoj Zizek talk about the idea that Christianity is the only religion in the world that requires you to abandon it in order to be faithful to it. I’ll elaborate on that in another post perhaps!

  5. Jonathan
    well spoken
    you might be interested in reading Peter Rollins
    “How (Not) to Speak of God” among other stuff he’s written
    Anne

  6. jt* said:

    Hey Anne,

    Thanks for that. I’ve read “How (Not)” and am currently reading “The Fidelity of Betrayal.”

    Hope all is well in Stratford (did I get it right?)!

  7. Hey Jon,

    I would imagine that Franklin Graham would mean to defend that certain something, whatever it is, that distinguishes Christ’s flock from the rest of the human population.

    The question of what divides Christians from good non-believers is a powerful one that requires severe honesty on the part of Christians, especially those who believe that being a Christian by conviction alone makes them Christians.

    It’s difficult to make any sense, however, of Christianity when there are no definite parameters (i.e. Truths that we can study, begin to understand, and even safeguard from heresy) around it. At certain points, we need to declare that what we believe is unique against systems of belief we understand to be false.

    To be clear, I’m not planning on signing any such petition. I agree that it’s completely unnecessary in this context. But I do challenge you that Truth, although in itself incorruptible, needs to be safeguarded and even declared, if it is to be properly understood and practiced by humans. Truth is not an abstract concept, somewhere in the heavens floating around in a gaseous state, but something that humans need to process as information in their minds and practice with their bodies. And it is because of this I believe that Truth, like our sense of what is right and wrong, can be marred in our minds, and if someone doesn’t protect it and give it parameters, it will cease to have any power for us.

    Graham understands that Truth does polarize, that there is an us and them, a Truth and an untruth, a Christian and a non-Christian. What seems to be missing is, as you indicate, the sense that Christian Truth is more than just a system of belief or something that you can assert by adding your name to an email distribution list database.

  8. jt* said:

    Hey Tom,

    I’m actually glad you brought that up. I didn’t mention it in this post directly but I do believe that there are things (for lack of a better word) that are meant to distinguish those who are under Christ from the rest of the world (after all, the way of Christ is very different than the way of the world).

    I suppose, as you alluded to at the end, what I was trying to say with this post is that this thing that sets us apart isn’t a list of truth’s that we’ve gleaned from the Bible and can agree with. In fact, if we understand Truth as ultimately made manifest in Christ then surely truth must indeed be much deeper and more powerful than propositional statements. To be a Christian, or to be in the Way of Christ, then is not merely to agree to some “statements of truth” but to be in the way of Truth where one is shaped and transformed.

    I guess what I’m saying is that this sort of Truth is fundamentally different than, say, scientific truth. A scientist can pin down a butterfly and make it the object of her study. But a Christian (or Atheist for that matter, here’s looking at you Dawkins) cannot pin God down and make Him the object of his study because God cannot be objectified. Also, the biological truths of a butterfly will never transform the life of the scientist whereas the Truth will always transform the lives of those in its way.

    Sure, truth isn’t some abstract concept, but far too many Christian folks treat truth like it’s something you can manhandle and grasp. I wonder (if like Rollins et al. suggest) if Truth is not something that we grasp, but rather, something by which we are grasped. So I think there is a sense of both/and going on here. There are things that we can say we believe and hold to as true (i.e. the Jesus lived, died, rose again and ascended) yet truth is paradoxically not something we can nail down.

    Thanks for those additions Tom. Hope all is well in (rainy) Vancouver!

  9. aislingclaire said:

    “…however, I fear it’s really deception in drag as clever marketing. Shit, I think Rob Bell was right, Jesus wants to save Christians.” Boom.

  10. societyvs said:

    Easily your most exciting blog…loved every bit of it and I think you really nailed this – with good reasoning.

    I am of the same type of thinking when it comes to these weird ambigious claims and outright ‘made up statements’ (ie: people without God claims I also never hear). Someone has to say something about all craziness, Christianity is becoming a 3 ring circus…entertianing, predictable, and complete with ‘side-shows’. Franklin Graham made my list as a ‘side show’ with this marketing stunt…in more Conservative arena’s I mean of course.

    Hi Franklin, I want to proclaim right here and right now, if I have your blessing that is, on John Turtle’s blog that I am a Christian. Does this also work or am I being too quiet about the whole episode?

    Christians, Christians, Christians, get back in the closet (Matt 6).

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