Echoes resound from our childhoods: “Be nice!” Above all else, be nice.
Reinforced by every teacher, both the Sunday and weekday versions, along with relatives aplenty, many of us have been shaped into believing that upsetting the applecart — or causing a scene — was the worst of human behavior.
Don’t be a troublemaker! Keep the peace.
A more grownup version is understood as: Protect the institution — or, more importantly, the funding that protects the institution.
So, en masse we stand with our hands in our pockets and lips zipped while those with no timidity – who claim to be the most Christian of us all and even speak for all others – engage in a loud, public campaign to redefine Christianity to serve a political agenda at odds with what Jesus called his followers to be and do.
As a result, those who pervert Christianity without timidity are winning the day.
Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress is not timid about using the Sunday morning worship slot at First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, and its TV audience, along with Fox News appearances, to advance a dangerous civil religion.
Jeffress is bold in admitting that Jesus’ foundational teachings known as the Sermon on the Mount are simply too weak for him; he prefers an aggressive, even abusive, political leader to follow.
Franklin Graham, who makes money off of, and brings shame to, his family name, spews ignorance and hatred through a social media fire hose to gullible Christian followers. Graham the Younger isn’t timid, nor is he concerned about keeping peace.
Paula White’s pulpit would be more fitting on QVC than in a church. Yet, her fleecing of the flock gets buoyed by limelight-seeking Southern Baptist preachers, like Jeffress and Jack Graham, eager to share some political porridge.
Never mind that these same pastors and denominational leaders were so eager to separate themselves from fellow Baptists who simply affirmed that God calls some women to preach (real sermons, not prosperity scams).
In addition to self-promotion via hateful politics, these high-profile ministers have something else in common: They are not apprehensive. Yet, we who know better often are.
Perhaps we need to remember another lesson taught in the nurturing churches of our youth: to be bold witnesses for Christ.
Perhaps we need passionate, alternative voices in the public sphere — speaking not arrogantly but clearly.
Perhaps for the sake of Christ and the Christian witness we need to be less concerned about keeping peace and more concerned about speaking truth.
Perhaps we should worry less about institutional protection and focus more on ensuring that the public message of the church aligns with the message of Jesus.
Perhaps we should avoid the temptation to make false equivalencies that excuse or soften the reality of specific evils by noting universal human imperfection.
Perhaps ignoring or downplaying injustice should be feared more than “causing a fuss.”
There is nothing noble or faithful about being quiet amid such costly carnage that puts the Christian witness on the side of nationalistic power and the denigration of those with little or no power.
Maybe the most needed confession of sin for many of us is to admit we have used timidity when boldness is the more faithful response. We can do so and still be nice.
Otherwise, our timidity enables those who enable a fearful, self-serving version of Christianity at odds with the one we affirm as the Christ.
Executive editor / publisher at Good Faith Media.