“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)
Over the past few months, issues of religion and morality have made front page headlines. Most recently, the government mandate for free contraception and the desire to redefine marriage have stirred the emotions our citizenry. With better than 75% of Americans identifying themselves as Christian (and conversely, less than 10% being agnostic, atheist and or unaffiliated secularist) one might expect a greater presence of the Holy Spirit moving Christian Americans to positively affect public policy.
No doubt, there is a representation of Americans with strongly held religious convictions that have been vocal about the convergence of public policy with morality. Unfortunately, the greater percentage of the 225+ million Christians in America appear content to keep their faith to themselves.
Recently, while attending church on Sunday, our Pastor spoke about the government’s attack on religious freedom. In the back of church, there was a gentleman (term used loosely), probably in his 60’s, who started loudly calling the Pastor a “liar.” This gentleman took himself and his young granddaughter outside, only to continue the conversation with the pre-school aged girl about how such commentary was not within the scope of the Church’s tax status to speak. On no less than 3 occasions in the past few weeks, I have either heard someone make a statement or write an opinion on a social media site that goes something like this:
“Personally, I am against XXXXXXX. However, I have no right to push my religion on other people.” or “XXXXXX is against my faith and beliefs, but everyone else should be free to decide for themselves.” Fill in the XXXXXXX with the issue of the day…redefining marriage, government mandated contraception, abortion, etc.
Since when did our Christian beliefs, or for that matter, religious beliefs in general, get relegated to the closet, stored behind the baseball cards of our childhood, the diary from our high school years, our college year books, fraternity mementos and the trophies of our youth? Spreading and strengthening faith is not unique to Christians. The Jewish term “Kiruv” refers to the outreach in bringing people closer to the teachings of the faith. Within Islam, the term “Da’wah” refers to an invitation, the invitation to follow Allah. Buddhists and Hindus have centuries-long history of spreading their faith through missionary efforts.
By definition, religion is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” As many churches face dwindling attendance or, at the very least, less consistent attendance, how do these set of beliefs (whatever they might be) get shared, such that they indeed become the moral code governing human affairs? Put another way, what is the future of our country if people’s religious beliefs have as much dust and importance as the high school year book?
No one is demanding you, as a Christian, to have the zeal of the Mormon missions who peddle their way through neighborhoods, the Jehovah Witnesses who relentlessly get doors slammed in their face or the missionaries who dedicate months and years of their lives to the poorest communities of our world. However, as the verses from Matthew’s Gospel state, we are, at a minimum, called to teach all that has been commanded. Teaching requires all of us to be active and to have a voice. The greatest teachers in history, Aristotle, Jesus, Plato, Horace Mann, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Walt Whitman and countless others were both active and effective in their ability to communicate. We each have the ability to change the world in the same way as these famous teachers. We must pull our beliefs and our faiths out of the closet, dust them off and have the courage to share them with those around us. Contrary to popular opinion, sharing your faith and beliefs is not pushing your religion on others, but instead is fulfilling your calling as a child of Christ.