Christine Weick stands behind a small table, explaining to people why Monster Energy Drinks are the work of Satan. “Now, look at the M here real closely,” she says, “You could have here, in ancient Hebrew, the letters 666. Take a look at the “O” in Monster. Looks like a cross doesn’t it? And what happens when you tilt the can upside down to drink it? Upside down cross. Witchcraft. And the Devil laughs.”
Christians wanting to communicate love in our culture have a daunting challenge to overcome. The challenge isn’t necessarily telling people about Jesus; most people understand the idea that there is a God that loves them. The challenge is the paralyzing social stereotype Christians have now because of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and people like Christine Weick. Before Christians ever get to speak with someone who’s curious about God, or someone who’s Atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, or of any other faith, we have first to overcome an immeasurably influential enemy (one that’s been holding power in America for centuries):
Good news is, this isn’t necessarily a new battle we’re fighting. Jesus fought fake piety during His lifetime, and Christians have to fight the modern-day version of it now. Unfortunately, public perception typically combines Christ and fake Christians into one package. It doesn’t matter how good Christianity tastes on the front end if the aftertaste makes you want to vomit. Try inviting a friend to your community of faith when the news is plastered with the latest Westboro Baptist Church picketing at an honorable veteran’s funeral. It’s no wonder that Ghandi said, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”
While they’ve probably never won anyone to Christ, fake Christians have succeeded in creating a cultural gag-reflex to modern day Christianity. And therein lies the challenge: how do we as Christians properly represent Christ and correct this perception? The answer is simple:
Don’t talk Jesus at people. Be Jesus to people.
Fake Christians claim to be trying to persuade people to follow Christ, but that very intention is the problem. No one needs to be persuaded or influenced to Christ–Jesus didn’t call us to be faith salesmen–people need to experience His love for them personally. And though leading someone to that kind of experience is a much more challenging task than mega-phoning our perspective, it’s infinitely more effective.
Sometimes the way we want to persuade others can seem like natural expressions of our passion: having a cross as your cover photo on your facebook page, texting your friends Bible verses, supporting the Republican party, or even telling them to change are all ways in which our society has convinced itself that cheap communication tactics will win the day. They won’t.
If we look at the stats, we can see that Christine Weick’s YouTube video has been viewed over 9 million times, and I’d wager approximately zero people stopped drinking Monster afterwards. (If anything it makes me crave Monster while I’m watching it.) Westboro Baptist Church has conducted 57,500 pickets to-date, and I have a strong gut-feeling that no one in history has ever walked by one of their “God hates fags” signs and said to themselves, “You know what–I want to try this whole Jesus thing out!” But they believe if they can argue loud enough and long enough, some people will be persuaded.
There’s tons of temptation to dive into theological arguments and reason people into faith. But before we do, we need to self-evaluate: has winning an argument about Christianity ever won someone over to Christ? Did that person feel like we listened to them and really understood their point of view? Or did they feel like we were a track stuck on playback they wish they could stop?
The problem with arguing for Christianity is that it’s easy to get dogmatic and uncompromising about our faith. Which makes sense–we believe Christ is the best news to any and every human. It’s difficult to watch someone you love suffer when you feel faith would help them through a trying season. But when someone else argues with our faith that’s foundational to our identity, it’s easy to feel personally attached to the outcome of the argument. We suddenly feel that we need to convince them of our point of view so we can be secure in our own beliefs.
It’s easy to stick our fingers in our ears when things get personal and talk so loud that our voice is all we can hear. But when we do, we ignore the other person’s dignity and the fact that their thoughts, values, faith, emotions, and humanity are equally deserving as ours are.
Communicating our passion to others without trying to sell them on an idea can be a complicated task. We have a passion to tell others about the love and joy that we’ve found, and instead of relying on cheap forms of communication to convey Christ, use the most powerful method of communication in your arsenal: your life.
The most effective way that we can communicate the joy and happiness that we’ve found in Christ is by living our lives like it’s true. If they ask you about your church, tell them. If they wonder why you pray before you eat, let them know. Moreover, love others so well that they wonder where your joy comes from. When you’re invited to share your faith with them, THAT is an awesome opportunity time to share. When we use our lives as a voice to show others how happy we are in relationship with Christ, we dramatically affirm the truth we’ve found.
If we as Christians want to represent Christ the best we’re able, if we want to get fake Christians off the stage, we have to follow His footsteps. His entire life was love. He saw people as infinitely valuable and unique individuals, and He loved them. Moreover, He demonstrated that love through his actions. Jesus didn’t entangle himself in arguments and try to reason-wrestle people into faith. If we want to follow suit, we must demonstrate love, not discuss it. Live out your love for Christ. There’s no counter argument for that.